Guest contribution by Thomas Jäger: Trump has many loopholes: He can become president despite being defeated
For Donald Trump there are different ways to an election victory. The American electoral system could hold loopholes for Trump. The majority in the parliaments of the states and the Supreme Court would be particularly important for this.
Almost every day, the American president promises that he will beat the corona virus – the invisible enemy with whom the US is at war. In Germany, Trump has already beaten the corona virus: According to a study by the R + V insurance company, Donald Trump is at the forefront of the greatest fears among Germans.
53 percent cite the threat posed by Trump as the most pressing. That is ten percent more than for natural disasters, migration or pandemics. And Trump may stay in office longer, even if he loses the election. In the meantime, there are new considerations from the Trump campaign.
About the expert
Prof. Dr. Thomas Jäger has held the chair for international politics and foreign policy at the University of Cologne since 1999. His main research interests are international relations as well as American and German foreign policy.
With all Republicans, US President Trump has more votes
If there is no majority in the electoral college, the House of Representatives would end up electing the president. Trump would have, as of today and all Republicans voted for him, the more decisive votes there.
But now there is still another way to be discussed, as Barton Gellman points out in “The Atlantic”. Accordingly, the Trump team is thinking about torpedoing the elections in some states in such a way that no final result will be determined on December 8, but different results will be disputed in court.
Is that his alternative plan?
In the above scenario, it would be assumed that no electorate would then be sent from individual states and therefore no candidate would achieve the required number of 270 votes. But there is probably another way. Because the right to nominate the electorate lies with the federal states, or more precisely with their parliaments. And apparently, in the Trump campaign, consideration is being given to the fact that these parliaments in the particularly controversial states appoint those electors who they read from the result. Which immediately leads to the question: what result?
Trump will not recognize an election defeat
President Trump has stated on several occasions that he will either win the election or that it was faked. In short: unlike all the losing candidates of the last 120 years, Trump will not recognize a defeat. And that also means that he will again and again doubt the election of Joe Biden – unless he wins with a landslide victory that makes Trump look alien.
In addition, Trump repeatedly demands that a winner should be determined on November 3rd. This is of operational importance, because in some countries those letters that were postmarked in time are counted until November 17th. And since all observers assume that many more Democrats will vote by letter than Republicans, it is an advantage for them if as many postal votes as possible are pushed aside.
Status of the count is crucial
It is therefore quite possible that some states will be rated for Trump on election evening because he is a few thousand votes ahead there, but this lead is turned into an advantage for Biden when the votes in letters are counted in the following weeks.
Until when is it counted? How long does one argue about which votes are valid? And if there is no final result on December 8th, what state of the count will be taken? The one of November 3rd, the last possible one, or any number in between?
Surf tip: All news about the US election can be found in the news ticker from FOCUS Online
Power lies in the parliaments of states
The consideration of the Trump campaign is now that in this situation the parliaments of the respective states send electors and these can then bring Donald Trump more than 270 votes, even if he should have lost the states after votes. Simply because the count was not undisputed. Because the electors are nominated by the parliaments of the states.
In addition, from a Republican point of view, it is an advantage that in some controversial states your party has a majority in the parliaments, for example in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. As of today, these states would probably help Trump achieve a certain victory. But with many of them it doesn’t look as if he could win them on his own if the polls correctly reflect the voting intentions.
Double electoral votes
But the confusion doesn’t stop there. Because while Arizona and Florida have Republican governors who would not oppose their parliament’s vote, the other four states do not. Because democratic governors rule here.
So there could be two votes here, because the governors can confirm the election result, which then does not agree with the voters sent by parliament. Maybe other officials can do the same, this is where the electoral lawyers are particularly creative. So it could be that there are different voices from the four states because different electorates have come together, each invoking a different part of state power.
Vice President Pence counts critical voices
These results are then sent to the President of the Senate. This is Vice President Mike Pence. He will then open and count the votes from the states on January 6, 2021. But what votes will they be when he has rival votes from four states – one for Trump, one for Biden? From this point on, nobody really knows what to do next.
Three easy ways and the chaos
If there is no majority for either candidate, the House of Representatives elects the president that same day, with each state having one vote. The Senate will then elect the Vice President, with each Senator having one vote. That would be an easy way – and this description only applies because it can get much more complicated and tricky.
But if there are two different results, no one knows what to do next. That also depends on the new majority structure in Congress, i.e. who has what form of majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
In the end, does the Supreme Court decide?
Since the electoral regulations are interpreted so differently by both sides, in the end, should it really happen, the judiciary will decide. So the situation can end up before the Supreme Court. This is another reason why Donald Trump is now in a hurry to reassign the seat in the Supreme Court.