Morris: Nov. 3 Scenarios
I know what you’re up to, all you early voters. But I have to say I don’t think it’s going to work out the way you hope.
You just want this all to be over – the drama, the anxiety, the bitterness, the anger, the shouting of slogans and accusations of taking the country in the wrong direction. You thought you could go ahead and vote and put it all out of your mind, go back to feeding the dog and watching reruns on the Hallmark Channel while the rest of us continued to twist ourselves into knots over how it’s all going to turn out.
But in truth, you’re helping create the very situation you seek to avoid. This is going to go on and on. It might never end.
Because of a massive shift to mail-in ballots, we aren’t likely to know the outcome of the presidential balloting on Nov. 3. In six swing states totaling 74 Electoral College votes —Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — no mail-in ballots may be counted before Election Day.
That could give us three ways our agony could be stretched out, according to a simulation by the Claremont Institute in partnership with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and reported by The Federalist:
- A clear victory for President Trump, winning 32 states and 322 Electoral College votes (270 needed to win), but, due to the massive use of mail-in ballots, victory likely won’t be formally declared until days or weeks after Election Day, as Trump would only have 248 electoral votes known for certainty.
- A clear victory for Vice President Biden, winning 26 states and D.C. for a total of 342 Electoral College votes. Again, because of the mail-in ballots, victory won’t be known for certain, as Biden may only have 268 electoral votes late into election night.
- An ambiguous result, with the final election results of several states delayed and subject to intense court fights resulting in a struggle right up to the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress where the ballots of the electors are unsealed. Uncertainty could extend even beyond this as decisions for both the presidency and vice presidency are battled out in Congress and before the U.S. Supreme Court.
If you think 2020 has been chaotic so far, imagine if the election of the next leader of the free world is chosen by nine unelected justices who serve for life.
Even better, what if the election is thrown into Congress?
After the 1800 election, it took the House 31 votes to choose Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr, his vice presidential running mate, as president (things were a little more complicated back then).
In the 1824 election, Andrew Jackson won both the popular vote and the most electoral votes among the four candidates. The House was allowed to select from among the top three, but the fourth-place finisher, wily Kentuckian Henry Clay, threw his support to second-place finisher John Quincy Adams, so Jackson got royally screwed.
And I hesitate to mention this, suspecting some regular readers might set their hair on fire and start running into walls, but there is even a chance the Speaker of the House could be given temporary custody of the presidency while the mess is straightened out.
Wouldn’t that be fun?
Of course, writing in isn’t the only form of premature suffrage. With the growing popularity of Early Voting, many citizens are physically going to their polling places days or even weeks early.
A lot of them are in Indiana. According to one of the TV stations I’ve been watching at my sister’s house in Indianapolis, there is an average wait of two or three hours for the folks in line at various Marion County polling places, and in one of them it is – wait for it – eight hours.
Guess all that all those dire warnings about the need to turn our election process upside down because of voter fears of catching COVID while voting were just a bunch of hooey, huh? Fancy that.
Apparently, more than 50 million people nationwide have already exercised their franchise in one way or another – that’s nearly 40 percent of the total number who voted for president in 2016. And considering the small percentage of undecided voters among the sluggards still waiting for Election Day, maybe this thing really is all over. I don’t have a dog to feed, but I can feel a Hallmark rerun calling to me.
On the other hand, I have this fantasy . . .
There is this quirk in Indiana election law that irritates me no end – in fact, learning about it is what caused me to write about early voting in the first place.
If you vote by absentee ballot in this state, then have the misfortune to die before Election Day, your ballot is thrown out. According to the Indiana Constitution, to vote here, you must be a citizen and a resident for 30 days of the precinct you are voting in. Since dead people aren’t citizens and don’t have residency, they aren’t considered eligible voters.
But, come on. At the time of their voting, those pre-deceased unfortunates were citizens and did have residency. I mean, I can understand not letting the long dead vote, unless we’re talking about Illinois, but disavowing voters’ franchise because they died is some sort of weird ex-post-facto voodoo.
But I imagine this scenario. The Electoral College is in utter chaos and the election will come down to a handful of absentee ballots in Indiana. All the people who voted absentee for the other guy leave town without a forwarding address and are presumed dead. My guy wins.
Then it can be over.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.