The rules governing these processes were hotly disputed as the campaigns filed competing suits in Florida state courts, with the Florida Supreme Court also weighing in and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court acting to stop the latest recount on Dec. 12, leaving Bush in the lead by 537 votes. This resulted in years of recriminations on both sides about who “really” won the election.

Now envision this playing out not in one state that everyone at least agrees is the one that will decide the final outcome, but across several. Each state will likely have millions of mail-in ballots to count. The Trump campaign will raise a thousand objections to ostensible Biden ballots. The Biden campaign will do the same in response to ostensible Trump ballots. Each will go to court to seek relief. Whether the court’s members were appointed by Democrats or Republicans will be noted by the media every single time. If a “Republican” court rules against Biden, Democrats will become apoplectic. The same will happen to Republicans if a “Democratic” judge rules against Trump.

If you’re a Democrat, the truth will seem obvious. Assuming bad faith and even outright willful deception on the part of Trump and his party is pro forma now. But of course Republicans feel the same way about the Democrats. When the myriad disputes arise — about “lost” ballots, “found” ballots,” ballots improperly filled out and requiring interpretation, ballots with illegible handwriting or signatures, ballots that arrive late but with a postmark on or before Nov. 3, ballots that arrive late but postmarked after Nov. 3, mail sacks stuffed with ballots that mysteriously appear in post offices or get delivered to government offices a week or more after Election Day — with each of these and many other disputes, we will need to turn to some trusted authority for clarity and resolution.

But there is no such trusted authority anymore.