It all seems so complicated. But there is a way to simplify the potential outcomes for the 2020 election. With so much news from so many states and each side claiming victory or scandal at every small news item, "Election Day" has transformed from the day campaigns finally finished into an exhausting daily drama with no end in sight. You may find it helpful, for your own peace of mind, to break down the noise of the never-ending Election Day into smaller, significant parts with binary choices. Think of it like traveling down a road, knowing there will be a series of forks where you will go one way or the other and continue on.
In this way, it is easier not to be distracted by the potholes or other "road hazards" of constant news items, outraged statements, ridiculous tweets and all the data, charts and opinions about what all these details mean on the way to having the election settled.
To begin with, our destination is Inauguration Day, which is Jan. 20, 2021. Unless something unprecedented happens, either President Trump or Joe Biden will be sworn in that day. So, in our analogy, that's how long this road is. About two months from now.
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There are several states still in the process of counting or recounting votes, wrangling over ballots and preparing to certify their results to Congress as required. Social media allow an exasperating volume of minutiae regarding the tiniest details of this process to be broadcast to everyone, often misleading followers that small matters are definitive when they are not. These are the proverbial potholes in the road that cause unnecessary confusion and worry.
President Trump will concede the election, or not. News media and liberals are demanding President Trump concede the election immediately. He has indicated, properly, that he will not do so at this time. Taking into consideration the extraordinary complexity of this election brought on by several states changing election rules in the weeks and months immediately before Election Day to allow for various mail-in voting schemes with varying levels of potential fraud, the president is wise to let those processes get legally sorted out in contested states.
President Trump will exercise his legal rights, or not. Both campaigns anticipated legal disputes and prepared legal teams to aggressively adjudicate the process on Election Day and during ballot counting. Different states have different election laws, rules and remedies, so the complexity of what is happening around the country is more than any one person can fully grasp. Suffice it to say, the president is aggressively pursuing all legal options in the appropriate states.
Lower courts will agree with the president's legal arguments, or not. As the ballot counts in disputed states are finalized and administrative remedies are exhausted, the legal fight will move to the courts. The courts in these various states will make final rulings giving President Trump enough electoral votes, or there will not be enough. It could be an assortment of various rulings in favor of the president's campaign or the Biden campaign. In states where President Trump is able to get sufficient fraudulent ballots excluded to win that state, Democrats can be expected to file their own lawsuits.
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All these lawsuits in various states from both campaigns can be expected to enter the federal courts and ultimately wind up at the Supreme Court. By that point, time will be short for arguments and a decision. Depending on the nature of the evidence presented by the sides, the court may have several options it could order besides simply finding for one party or the other. Recounts, audits or even a re-vote in designated states under conditions directed by the court are remote possibilities, but not inconceivable considering the magnitude of the expected claims of fraud. For this reason, it was imperative that the Supreme Court have a full complement of nine justices instead of the even number which existed after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A 4-4 tie at the Supreme Court would leave the decisions in various cases with the lower courts, with possibly wild disparities in results from place to place, as happened with the decision regarding Pennsylvania's effort to extend voting past Election Day.
There are other extraordinary measures some are proposing as possibilities, including the election being decided by Congress and/or the individual states via constitutional provision. But these circumstances are so unlikely and so far down the road that it is not worthy of concern or speculation. Not yet, anyway.
In any event, one should always keep in mind that major media, the Democratic Party or social media "fact checkers" are not authorities with any official role in declaring an election winner. These sources portray themselves as authoritative, but their pronouncements are simply their own opinions and personal wishes. There is no constitutional role for CNN, the New York Times or Twitter in declaring an election winner. But there is a process, constitutional and legal, for state and local government, the courts and the Congress. And that process will play out for the next few weeks, and we will get to our destination.