How Trump could win by cheating

A lot is being written about what happens if Trump refuses to concede defeat.  This is a bogus question.  He wins or loses when the Electoral College meets.  Whether or not he admits defeat is neither here nor there.

The big question is what happens between Nov, 3, which is Election Day, and Jan. 6, when the Electoral College announces the results.

My previous post was about what happens if Trump wins fair and square, more or less, and whether Democrats could live with it.. This post is about how Trump could cheat.

I don’t have direct access to The Atlantic, but Eric Lutz of  Vanity Fair summed up the high points:

The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman reports that the Trump campaign has been discussing “contingency plans to bypass the election results and appoint local electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.” Citing the president’s baseless claims of fraud, Team Trump could ask GOP-controlled state governments to choose electors, completely ignoring an unfavorable or uncertain popular vote, state and national Republican sources told Gellman.

“The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power,’” a Trump campaign legal adviser explained to the Atlantic. “‘We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.’”

Does completely ignoring the will of the voters seem anti-democratic? Unconstitutional? Impossible? One would think. But as Gellman points out, however authoritarian this kind of end-around may seem, the Constitution doesn’t forbid such a move, and it’s something the Trump campaign could pull off. Indeed, state Republican leaders have already casually indicated that they’d be all too happy to enable this kind of power grab.

“I’ve mentioned it to them, and I hope they’re thinking about it too,” Lawrence Tabas, chairman of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, one of the swing states on which the 2020 race could hinge, told Gellman. “It is one of the available legal options set forth in the constitution.”

Disturbing as the prospect of bypassing the popular vote in GOP-controlled battlegrounds may be, it’s but one of several vulnerabilities in the electoral system Trump and his flunkies are trying to exploit this fall, ranging from complex legal fights to declaring absentee ballots fraudulent before they’ve even been processed to the possibility — likelihood? — that the president will simply pronounce himself the winner before all votes are tallied.

While Joe Biden …… retains a strong lead over his counterpart nationally, polls suggest the two are locked in tight races in several key states like Georgia, Iowa, Florida, and Arizona. The idea that typically deep-red states like Texas and Georgia are in play for Biden would seem to reflect the president’s challenging reelection prospects—but those states all are controlled by Republican-majority legislatures, creating just the opening Trump needs to call the votes bogus and appoint electors that will decide in his favor.

Source: Vanity Fair

Mark Joseph Stern of Slate imagines a scenario:

It is the late evening of Nov. 3, 2020—Election Day. The race is tight. It’s come down to the three states that President Donald Trump barely won in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Most in-person votes have been counted, and Trump holds a small lead in each state. But there are millions of mail-in ballots that election officials have not yet processed. Hundreds of thousands of voters dropped their ballots in the mail days ago, but they haven’t been received.

Meanwhile, thousands of ballots that were mailed in time have been rejected due to alleged technical defects. The outcome of the election turns on all these outstanding votes. But Trump, on the basis of the results so far, declares victory and dismisses the remaining mail-in ballots as fraudulent and illegitimate. The Republican-controlled legislatures of all three states agree, assigning their electoral votes to the president. Trump has secured a second term in the White House.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, unprecedented numbers of Americans are voting by mail-in ballot.  They tilt Democratic because Trump downplays the danger of the virus.  But Postmaster=General Louis DeJoy has imposed strict limits on service which will delay mail.  Also, election officials are overwhelmed by by the surge in mailed ballots. Stern reports:

During Wisconsin’s April election, we saw what happens when a state underestimates the demand for mail-in ballots: Election officials just can’t process them in time. At least 9,000 voters never received their requested absentee ballots, and an unknown number—probably many more—got their ballots too late to mail them back in time.

Add Postal Service delays to the mix and you have a recipe for an election meltdown. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has pointed out, every swing state except North Carolina counts only those mail-in ballots received by Election Day. If a ballot is postmarked by Election Day but delivered late, these states will not count them.

Greg Palast, an investigative reporter who specializes in voter suppression and election rigging, imagines a more extreme scenario scenario:

Now we’ll get Boogaloo Boys in Hawaiian shirts with crowbars and pipes who will be smashing the buildings, Molotov cocktails thrown into post offices because our president has said there are a million ballots in these 12 Post Offices from Venezuela and we have to stop the election from being stolen.

There will be protests in the streets on both sides. We already had the test run in Portland. It’s a test run of the unmarked SUVs picking up people as if we were in Peronist Argentina.

And what I’m worried about is that, for example, the Florida legislature, you’ll have two Post Offices on fire, the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office is shut down because it’s too dangerous to go in because of the Boogaloo Boys and the Proud Boys. Then what happens is, the rabidly Republican legislature of Florida says it’s too much mayhem, we can’t count the votes in time.

I expect Florida will have 6 million mail-in ballots. The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature will say, we can’t count them in time, so we’re not going to certify the election.

Republicans, who control the legislature, of Michigan, will also say, “We can’t certify the election.” Imagine: Detroit is in flames and Milwaukee’s in flames. They won’t certify the results.

So, you have three Republican legislatures say it’s mayhem in the streets, it’s martial law, we’ve had curfews, we can’t count the ballots. Therefore, there will be no certification.

As a result, no candidate gets 270 votes in the Electoral College because they don’t send the electors. Real simple: you don’t certify the election, you can’t send your electors, no one gets 270 electoral votes.

Then, under the 12th Amendment it goes to the House. But it’s not Nancy Pelosi who makes the decision. Each state gets a single vote. Wyoming gets the same vote as New York, and Donald Trump is reelected — constitutionally — because our cities are in flames.

Source: Greg Palast

I’m not an admirer of Joe Biden.  And I’m aware of the unrepresentative nature of much of American government.  But a crisis such as these writers describe would be a test of whether democratic government is possible any longer in the USA.

What can the Democrats do at this point?  Lawyer up, and hope for the best.  What can voters do?  Vote as early as possible, whether in person or by mail.

LINKS

Trump Campaign Reportedly Planning a Coup to ‘Bypass’ a Biden Win by Eric Lutz for Vanity Fair.

Warning: Trump and His Rioters Can Win Using The XII’ by Greg Palast.

How Trump Can Steal the Election by Mark Joseph Stern for Slate.

Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition by the Transition Integrity Project.

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