Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 11, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, Podcast– Legal Fact and Fiction
On November 7, 2020, Joe Biden unofficially became the President-Elect, and Kamala Harris unofficially became the Vice President-Elect. Normally the losing candidate, in this case Donald Trump, accepts defeat and contacts the winner to congratulate him or her. Not Donald Trump. He made unsubstantiated claims of “voter fraud,” and then he never backed down. This likely surprised very few as Trump claimed back in 2016 the election was rigged, and he claimed it was rigged again in 2020. What is troubling, however, is most of his party, led by stalwarts such as Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, continue to argue Trump has every right to challenge the election results. And these fears became more real when on November 9th Attorney General William Barr opened up a probe into “voter irregularities” without alleging any evidence. It all smacks of hyper partisanship, and it raises the question as to whether an Electoral College coup is afoot.
Every four years the Electoral College meets in December. Each state’s electors then vote for the candidate who prevailed in the presidential race in their respective state. This is how it almost always happens. Different states certify their elections on different dates, but the Electoral College meets on December 14, 2020 and votes.
This year Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada proved decisive. Nevada certifies its election on November 16th. Michigan and Pennsylvania certify their elections on November 23rd.
All legal challenges must be filed by December 8th, the so-called “Safe Harbor” date. In other words, challenges cannot be lodged after that date. It should be noted all challenges filed by Donald Trump’s campaign have been dismissed thus far. One filing was improperly filed and therefore rejected.
This is a short summary of the legal process involved. In all likelihood, everything will run smoothly, and Joe Biden will be declared, officially at least, the President-Elect.
This does not answer the question as to whether Trump’s supporters, both elected and otherwise, will accept the results of the election. Quite frankly, it does not matter if they accept the results.
Recent rhetoric from supporters has sounded alarm bells such as Senator’s McConnell’s statement that Trump was “100% within his rights to challenge the results of the election.”
On November 10th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said:
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol responded, “Be alarmed,” in response to this troubling statement. And he is right.
Perhaps the best quote as to the vagueness and lack of substance of “voter fraud” came from Senator Lindsey Graham, who said: “And we will continue, in spite of my democratic colleagues protestations, we’re going to find someone accountable for something, when it comes to crossfire hurricane.”
Legally, the important dates to keep in mind are:
- December 8th “Safe Harbor” deadline (no lawsuits after this date).
- December 14th Electoral College meets and votes (it is over after this date).
Are there conspiracy theories out there? Yes. Could there be violence? Yes. Sadly, violence is always possible in America, but legally speaking not much will happen. The Electoral College will meet December 14th, and Joe Biden will officially become President-Elect. Again, this all assumes we do not fall into lawlessness and utter chaos. If we do, the law will not matter.
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Is it possible though, that Trump / loyalists could send electors to the electoral college which are not in line with what their states election represents? What I mean: those electors are already chosen. What happens, if they just show up and we have a show down in the electoral college with more than 538 electors. Then it will be at least a little bit of chaos and somebody has to sort out who is rightfully there to cast a vote and who is not. So, who has the authority to do just that?
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