What if a contested election isn’t settled by Inauguration Day?
THIS JUST IN: both the US president and the First Lady have tested positive for the corona virus. The president tweeted, “The first lady and I will begin the quarantine process.”
Clearly, there are widespread implications — given the vast number of people the president (and his wife) are normally in contact with — not to mention all the people the president encounters in his travels.
World leaders are, to put it mildly, concerned. I’ve monitored news sites from around the world in the last hour, and the shock and concern is widespread.
MSNBC said the stock market is expected (at 4:30 ET) to be down 500+ points at the opening in a few hours.
These are, indeed, weird times.
Whoa! Backup. Somehow, it will be settled, well before that date, if only by Congressional decisions: The House will, in a worst-case scenario, elect the president; The Senate will elect the VP.
An Associated Press article has spelled out how this all works in some detail.
Much as we hate to imagine it, this year’s vote count is going to be, in a word, messy. Some states don’t allow absentee votes to be counted until election day. Others allow absentee votes to be postmarked on election day and received up to three days later. (Given the efficiency of the Post Office under regular conditions, that could be a stretch.)
But whatever the states’ rules on how and when votes are counted, the process has to be done before electors — the individuals elected or nominated in the various states to actually do the voting for POTUS and VP — are scheduled, by law, to vote on December 14. Or, if the states haven’t settled any disputes on where votes rightly recorded or not, and how many were in total right by that date, the whole show shifts to the Congress.
And this is where, this year, it gets interesting — because there is every likelihood that all involved courts, possible up to the Supreme Court, won’t have concluded all they need to before December 14. That means the ‘battle’ — and battle it will be, if Trump appears to be the loser, will automatically shift to the Congress.
Let’s assume for a moment that — unlikely! — the balance in Congress will remain as it is today: With Democrats controlling the House (and then being responsible for electing the president, with each state getting one vote, so 26 are needed to elect), and the Senate remains in the hands of Republicans.
Now it really gets complicated — if a 51-count isn’t achieved quickly or easily. In such an instance (heaven help us!), the Senate will remain in session until a 51-vote in favor of a candidate can be achieved… whenever that may be. Or…
The whole shebang gets tossed back to the Speaker of the House — Nancy Pelosi, all being as it is.
So, in the end, it is remotely possible that the House could elect both the president and the Vice President.
The contingencies are covered. A result is assured. Will that result satisfy a majority of the public? In all likelihood, it won’t. But come to think of it, few election results do.
The last one certainly didn’t.