Trump’s ‘elector’ episode

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As President Donald Trump continues to complain about electoral fraud, let’s not forget that he won the presidency in 2016 without winning majority support of the American voters. Hillary Clinton had scored almost three-million-votes lead over him. Yet, Trump collected the keys to the White House.

In this world’s most enduring democracy, just a few electors, instead of the people, elect the nation’s leader.

America’s Founding Fathers wanted to create a democratic order that is fair and inviolable. Thus, the 1787 Constitutional Convention pondered if the head of state be elected by the people, who could be manipulated, or by the representatives the people of different states have elected.

It resulted in the Electoral College in which each state has an equal number of electors as it has representation in the House and Senate. Thus, there are 538 electors named by political parties in tune with the political divide proven by the latest election. These electors elect the president.

All fifty states, except Maine and Nebraska, have a winner-take-all system; that is, the presidential candidate who scores the largest number of popular votes in the state claims all the electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska, however, apportion the electors according to the popular vote.

However, not all electors always follow this guideline. In 2016, seven electors from different states went against the rule. But that alone was not what helped Trump win. Three states previously held by Democrats—Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—swung against Clinton, and gave Trump all their 46 electoral votes.

Seldom have electors moved against their voting rule since 1787. So, to stop any future elector following the footsteps of the rebellious seven in 2016, the Supreme Court earlier this year reaffirmed the law requiring electors to exercise their duty as defined by their state.

Nonetheless, Trump is expecting electors sympathetic to him to ignore it and vote in his favor. According to a Reuters Ipsos poll early November, 52 percent of Republicans think Trump “rightfully won” re-election this year.

In the 2020 election, a historic number of voters cast their ballots. Trump scored almost eleven million more popular votes than in 2016. Yet, the margin between him and his Democratic opponent widened from less than three million in 2016 to nearly seven million.

Considering that chasm, would the Republicans now be able to swing thirty-eight electoral votes for Trump and undermine the very foundation of the American democracy the nation’s Founding Fathers had thoughtfully structured?

There are ominous signs on the horizon, particularly in the form of concerns that Joe Biden, who is widely acclaimed as the President-elect, might not win the support of some electors who are disappointed that he hasn’t delivered on their expectation of him appointing to crucial positions people representative of their constituencies. The electoral politics is often about who scratches whose back.

The dates to watch to see how America shall be governed the next four years are December 23, 2020, January 5 and 6, 2021.

On December 23, all electoral ballots, tabulated and certified by Secretaries of each state, are received by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as president of the Senate.

On January 6, Congress meets to count and certify the electoral votes. In the event some electors have rebelled against the established norm and voted for their personal favorite, and caused a 269-vote tie, a “contingent election” takes place in which the House of Representatives decide who the president is and the Senate decides who the vice president is.

In such a situation, the Democrat-controlled House could vote for Biden, but Kamala Harris may not be his vice president. Republicans now control the Senate. In the event Democrats take both Georgia Senate seats in the soon to be held run-off poll, the Senate will become divided equally between Republicans and Democrats. So, unless one or two senators cross over to the opposite side, Vice President Mike Pence as Senate president can give himself the nod, and a unique situation of a Biden-Pence administration would arise. What a political ride it will be! Would America then plunge to a worse political crisis than it has experienced hitherto?

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is Republican, has summed up the Trump strategy best. He said, people should only refer to a candidate as “president-elect” if “Trump concedes or the court cases have been dismissed and the states certified.” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien echoed this sentiment on November 23 in the Philippines: “There’ll be a transition if the courts don’t rule in President Trump’s favor…. But President Trump has not exhausted his legal remedies.”

(Peter G. de Krassel is a Hong Kong-based strategic analyst, contemporary social commentator and author of the Custom Maid books and blogs.

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