Georgia’s 2018 election was Exhibit A of voter suppression. Maya King of POLITICO reports how fear of a repeat is fueling record turnout among black voters, giving Democrats the opportunity to turn the state of the Deep South battlefield blue.
“We have to prepare for anything. Absolutely. We have invested too much time, money, energy, ”said former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, who served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Let me be clear. There is no trough that Donald Trump will not go to, so we have to prepare for it.… We don’t know what this guy is going to do.
While the Republican National Committee said it was more focused on its $ 20 million effort to legally challenge the era of the pandemic changes to voting rulesThe Trump team discussed the possibilities that Congress could step in to determine the election, or that a state would attempt to certify two conflicting results, according to three people familiar with the conversations.
“Having been in a close election before, you have to have the lawyers lined up,” said Pat McCrory, the former Republican governor of North Carolina, who lost his candidacy for reelection in 2016 by 10,000 out of 4 votes. , 6 million votes. “Everyone should be prepared for anything. They have no choice but to do it. “
Trump predicted that the Supreme Court could end up determining the winner and even meditated publicly on a deadlocked constituency that would go to Congress. In turn, President Nancy Pelosi even asked Democrats to consider a possible battle in the House for the presidency as they figure out where to spend election money.
While most polls show Trump lags behind Biden in the shifting states he needs to get a second term, some key states, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina, remain extremely tight.
“In a close election, especially this close presidential election, whoever the bottom camp is going to try everything they can,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, a nationally recognized election lawyer who has represented four of the last six Republican presidential candidates. struck down Trump’s rhetoric on voting.
As the country has grown accustomed to declaring a winner on Election Day night, close races can last for days or even weeks as states finalize the vote count – rounding up the ballots abroad , for example – or conduct recounts.
In 2020, the chances of a delayed outcome have increased due to the pandemic. A record number of voters – more than half – are expected to vote by mail as Americans dodge the ballot boxes, possibly lengthening vote counting times in battlefield states where margins are expected to be extremely slim.
Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – which Trump narrowly won in 2016 after years of Democratic presidential victories – could be the slowest to determine a winner because election officials are not allowed to do so. start treatment remote polling days or weeks earlier than other states.
“We’re well prepared for any scenario,” Biden spokesman Michael Gwin said.
Republicans argue that it is Biden’s team that will never concede. “Here’s a possible outcome we should be concerned about: Joe Biden does not accept the results when President Trump wins re-election, following Hillary Clinton’s. call so that Biden would not concede “under any circumstances,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Thea McDonald said.
But some fear Republicans are not sufficiently prepared. Tom Fitton, chairman of Judicial Watch, a conservative group that has sued for the accuracy of voting lists in some states, said he was frustrated that Republicans did not take the possibility of voting seriously enough. a fight in the House.
“Nothing is off the table,” he says.
Election observers fear that mutual suspicion will quickly turn ugly in the aftermath of the election if there are questions about the results. In June, the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan group of 100 experts, including former federal employees, pollsters and strategists, simulated what could happen the day after polling day if Trump challenges the results. They took into consideration possible lawsuits and resulting stories, according to a person familiar with the exercise.
“Almost it all ended with street violence and a constitutional crisis,” the person said.
All states have a set deadline for sorting all mail-order ballots scheduled for 2020.
By December 8, each state must certify its results to Congress, giving each only five weeks to navigate disputes and recounts. In the contested 2000 election, Florida was still conducting a recount days before the Dec. 12 deadline of that year, when the Supreme Court stepped in to stop the process. And last summer, it took more than five weeks to count all the ballots in a Democratic primary for a seat in the United States House in New York.
For the fall election, several states have expanded delays in receiving ballots due to fears that the embattled US Postal Service could not deliver millions of additional ballots on time. Therefore, it may take longer than usual for some results to count. One candidate could declare victory in a state on election night, while another claims victory after more mail-in ballots have been counted.
Concerned about these possible delays, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), offers a bill that would reduce the deadline from December 8 to January 1.
Traditionally, each state’s electoral votes are allocated to whoever wins the popular vote in that state, but the process to achieve this is not always straightforward. Once the winner of the popular vote is determined in a state, the state appoints voters from the dominant party to the Electoral College.
But if a state hits the deadline without a winner, it’s unclear which voters need to be nominated. And it is possible that in such a scenario, the legislature of a state could appoint voters to certify the result they want. But that wouldn’t necessarily prevent a governor or secretary of state from appointing a separate group of voters to certify a different result.
“It would be incredibly unlikely,” said Justin Riemer, chief legal counsel for RNC. “We believe that a recount or an electoral contest would solve these problems.”
Yet in 2000, just days before the Supreme Court put an end to the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the Florida legislature was on the verge of sending Republican voters to certify the election, regardless. or the result of a recount in progress. Part of their reasoning? The impending deadline for delivering results to Congress.
“Efforts by legislatures to intervene in this rather drastic manner become more and more plausible if the count takes longer and longer and you approach the deadline,” said Paul M. Smith, vice-chairman of the Litigation and Strategy Campaign Legal Center, which supports unlimited voting access, and a member of the National Electoral Crises Task Force.
Four swing states have Republican legislatures and Democratic governors – North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. One state – New Hampshire – has a Democratic legislature and a Republican governor. Either set-up could cause a governor and a state legislature to disagree on the state winner and try to nominate competing groups of voters.
Pennsylvania attracts the most attention because it is possibly the tightest of these states.
“It would be remiss of the state legislature not to appoint delegates, especially considering the amount of resources allocated to the race,” said Bryan Lanza, a 2016 Trump campaign official. close to the 2020 team.
While the Constitution and federal law give legislatures the power to choose voters, each state has established its own process to follow, and many of them are vague.
It could get complicated.
“If they are not convinced to believe in the result, some legislatures will be tempted to take power and directly appoint voters,” said Barry Burden, founding director of the Center for Election Research at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison.
If Congress is presented with two rounds of elections, it would be forced to decide which one to choose, with almost no textbook to follow. And if the two houses of Congress are divided – probably because they are controlled by different parties, as is currently the case – it is not known what would happen, experts say.
The scenario has played out only once before, in 1876, arguably the most controversial election in United States history. That year, three states – Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina – produced different groups of voters. Congress created a commission, which voted on party principles to select Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as chairman.
A little over a decade later, Congress passed legislation establishing a procedure for counting electoral votes, and the issue has never been critical to the outcome of an election again. Hawaii once submitted two groups of voters in 1960.
Another crisis could arise a few weeks later, when Congress meets to certify the presidential election of January 6, 2021.
Normally, the process is a formality. But if the election is so close that neither Trump nor Biden won 270 electoral votes, the fate of the presidency ends in the House of Representatives – a phenomenon that only happened in 1800 and 1824, when ‘no candidate won a majority of voters. .
In this scenario, each state’s delegation gets a single vote based on an internal tally from each legislator in the delegation. This means that the presidency may not be decided by the party that controls the House itself, but by the one that controls the most state delegations in the chamber.
Currently, Democrats control the House, but Republicans control more state delegations. But as the final certification will take place after the swearing-in of the newly elected Congress, the 2020 House races could affect the balance of the delegation.
Due to this possibility, Pelosi has urged his fellow Democrats to consider the House’s possible role in determining the 2020 election when deciding where to focus resources on winning the seats in November. Reversing just a few seats in states like Montana and Alaska, for example, could change the majority control of delegations from those states.
Currently, Republicans control 26 delegations, Democrats have 22. Pennsylvania is tied and Democrats have a 7-6 advantage in Michigan, with one seat held by independent Justin Amash.
“The idea that the United States of America – one of the oldest democracies and a long-standing democracy – which hasn’t had such a problem in years is now going to have a problem just because Donald Trump inventing them is scandalous, ”said David Lublin, election specialist in the government department of the American University.