Thursday’s final presidential debate between Donald Trump and his opponent, democrat nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr. ( a.k.a Joe Biden), was presumably the last chance for Trump to persuade the undecided voters to vote for him as he has been trailing Biden for months as per the opinion polls. However, going into this year’s election, Trump seems to have methodically worked out the permutations of the outcome and his contingency plans are well in place should things not go in his favor. His refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power in case he loses, has set the tone for gripping and uncertain times ahead as far as the race to the Presidency is concerned.
Trump has questioned the legitimacy and credibility of mail-in voting system and has repeatedly suggested that it is prone to rigging and fraud. According to rough estimates, a whopping 80 million or more voters are poised to vote by mail due to the current pandemic, a number more than double as compared to the 2016 election. The Trump campaign considers that it would be tough for the US Postal Service (USPS) to handle, timely and justly, such a huge volume of mails in a short span of time. To a certain extent Trump’s concerns are valid, in as many as 34 states; filled ballots that are not received by Election Day are nullified. More than the voters themselves, this year’s election will depend on the performance of the USPS, a department marred by financial constraints and institutional changes lately.
Should he not come out as a winner, Mr. Trump seems set to take the disputes arising from the voting process to the Supreme Court where, three of the nine judges would be Trump appointees. Nevertheless, courts are expected to function impartially and any outcome is possible. If Supreme Court gives a decisive judgment on the outcome, it would be a repeat of the year 2000, when the top court settled a Florida recount dispute between A.I Gore and George W. Bush by ruling in favor of Bush.
Counting delays, impending cases in state courts or unresolved disputes could result in none of the candidates reaching the 270 electoral vote majority, which could push the process of deciding the winner towards a contingent election in Congress. Trump recently hinted at this possibility in his press briefing on September 16 when he said, “…at a certain point, it goes to Congress”, an indication that he could try to enforce such a scenario by disputing the results of key swing states where democrats would appear to be leading in vote count.
In a contingent election, instead of individual votes by members, the votes are counted per state. This means that Alaska’s one member would get one vote and all the 55 members from California would combine to get one vote. The candidate who wins 26 out of 50 state votes is declared President. Currently, Republicans lead 26 state delegations, Democrats have hold of 23 delegations while 1 is tied, an equation which, according to experts might not change drastically after the election. All this essentially implies that despite losing the majority electoral votes, Trump could still have a shot at the Presidency.
To sum it up, if Trump is to have a second term in the office, a battle in the highest court or a contingent election (or both) could well be one of the ways. For Biden, the most viable option to win is to win big, and comprehensively.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.