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112120         Political Note #340   Counting Votes

2020               General election

Wikipedia has a great spread sheet.  Presidential election results.  You can fiddle with the chart.  You can’t change the results.  You can, as you can with spread sheets, change the column that organizes the rows.

When you first look at the chart, it is organized by year.  From George Washington to Joe Biden.  Look at Presidents and their margin of victory.  Donald Trump had the biggest —  the biggest loss in the popular vote of anyone elected President.  In 2016, Trump lost by 2,868,686 votes.  The next biggest loss was George W Bush in 2000.  He lost by 543,816 votes and won the election because of the Electoral College.  He was followed by Rutherford B. Hayes who lost by 252,596.  The two remaining losing winners lost by less than 100,000 votes – Benjamin Harrison and John Quincy Adams.

This time round, Donald Trump is losing outright.  Not by a landslide.  Four Presidents were elected by landslides, by margins of more than 10 million votes – Richard Nixon (1972), Ronald Reagan (1984), Lyndon Johnson (1964), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1932).  Twelve more were elected by margins between 5 million and 9.9 million.  Of those twelve, the one with the largest margin was Dwight D. Eisenhower (1956).

The smallest margin of the twelve?  It could be Joe Biden (2020).  By Wikipedia’s recent count, Joe Biden is winning by 5,316,904.  He’d need approximately 500,000 more votes to catch Bill Clinton’s margin in 1992.  And he might get that 500,000 and more.  Nate Silver projects that, when all the votes are counted, Joe Biden will have received 81.8 million votes, Trump 74.9 million – a difference of 6.9 million votes.  At that rate, Biden will have caught Herbert Hoover (1928) and Dwight Eisenhower (1952) but  behind Warren Harding (1920).

We really should think about the percentage of the vote by which Joe Biden won.  The percentage is why we can’t call this victory a landslide.  If Nate Silver is right, Joe Biden will have received 52.2% of the vote, Donald Trump 47.8% — a margin of 4.4%.  After excluding the 5 winners who received less than a majority of the popular vote (Donald Trump among them), if Nate Silver is correct, Joe Biden will have the 13th lowest percentage margin among the electoral winners – just behind Harry Truman.

Looked at from one perspective, none of these numbers matter.  What counts is the Electoral College vote.  Joe Biden will get 306 Electoral College votes, the same number that Donald Trump earned in 2016.  Donald Trump declared that he won the Electoral College by a landslide.  It wasn’t true. It was a start for the kind of presidency Donald Trump would have.  Lots of untrue statements.  306 Electoral College votes is not a landslide for Joe Biden either.

Donald Trump is not done, though. He in interfering in the vote counting.

Here are some recent and upcoming deadlines and where Trump has or could interfere.

Friday, November 20Georgia: State officials will have certified the voting results in Georgia.  Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won by more than 12,000 votes.

Monday, November 23.   Maine, Michigan, and Pennsylvania state officials certify the voting results in each of these states.

In Pennsylvania, county election officials send their results to the Secretary of the Commonwealth who certifies the Pennsylvania results.  The Secretary is Kathy Boockvar.  The position is an appointed one, appointed by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf. Originally from Hewlett, NY, her BA is from UPenn, her JD from American University. She has been chief counsel to a government agency, on the Board of a port authority, and Ex Director of Lifecycle WomanCare.   There are lawsuits in Pennsylvania.  Will they all be resolved by November 23?  Will there be unresolved lawsuits that would prevent the Secretary of the Commonwealth from certifying the results?   Not likely.  Expect Kathy Boockvar to certify the results.

Michigan has had some contentiousness. In Wayne County (which includes Detroit) the two Republican members of the 4-person election board initially refused to certify the vote.  That generated an angry public response and they changed their vote. That generated an angry Donald Trump telephone response.  They changed their minds again and attempted to withdraw their vote. Too late. The certified results had been sent to Michigan Secretary of State. Jocelyn Benson (BA Wellesley, MA Oxford, JD Harvard) was the Dean of Wayne State University’s Law School before being elected Secretary of State in 2018, the first Democrat in that office since 1995.  Even after their meeting with Donald Trump at the White House, Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders insisted they would accept the ordinary process of counting votes.  Jocelyn Benson will certify Joe Biden’s victory in Michigan.

Tuesday, November 24,  Minnesota, North Carolina, and Ohio certify results. No disputes here.

Monday, November 30.  Arizona, Iowa, and Nebraska certify results.

Republicans were in court attempting to delay certification of the vote in Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix). Judge John Hanna (BA Pamona, JD U of Arizona)  dismissed the Republican case on November 19.  Katie Hobbs (BSW Northern Arizona, MSW Arizona State) Secretary of State will certify the results showing Biden and Harris winning.  Hobbs is the first Democratic Secretary of State in Arizona since 1995.

Tuesday, December 1Nevada and Wisconsin deadlines for certification.

Local Boards have not completed certification in Nevada.  Regardless of those votes, the Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (AA Clark County CC), former 7-11 franchisee and state senator, announced that she had received several emails urging her not to certify “potentially fraudulent” votes.  The lawsuit claiming fraudulent votes argued, among other things, that many absentee votes came from non-residents.  An AP analysis, that enumerated those voters after deleting names, identified Nevada zip codes and hundreds of Nevadans in the military.  The lawsuit is unlikely to go anywhere and Cegavske is likely to certify that the state voted for Biden and Harris.

In Wisconsin, county certification is complete.  The Trump campaign is seeking a partial recount for the state’s most populous counties. The Wisconsin authorized the recount, to be completed by December 1.  When the recount is completed, with results unlikely to change Joe Biden’s lead of more than 20,000 votes by any seoiur amount, the Wisconsin Electoral Commission will meet and certify the results.  The six-member commission has 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans,

Tuesday, December 8.  By this date, the Governor of each state should certify all results and the names of Electoral College Delegates to Congress.  Unless Donald Trump succeeds in persuading state legislatures (as he attempted with Michigan Republican legislators in Michigan), there will be 306 Delegates committed to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris among the certifications.

Monday, December 14 the Electoral College delegates gather in each state and vote.  Joe Biden will receive 306 Electoral College votes and will have been elected president.  But it is not over.

Wednesday, December 23 certified electoral college votes must be received by the President of the Senate and by the national archivist.

The Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate. On December 23, that is Mike Pence.  The National Archivist is apparently a kind of back up so there isn’t just one official copy.  He is David Ferriero (BA, MA Northeastern, MLS Simmons) and was the director of research libraries for the New York Public Libraries.

By January 3, which is a Sunday (does that mean January 4 is OK? I don’t know), the electoral college votes are transferred to the President of the Senate.  (Mike Pence) in case he did not already have them.

On Wednesday, January 6, a joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College votes.  This is one last opportunity for Donald Trump to interfere.  According to rules established in 1877, if there is objection to any vote, House and the Senate meet separately to consider the objection.  If both branches uphold the objection, the objection is accepted.

Could Republicans organize objections to electoral college votes, reduce Joe Biden’s total of Electoral College votes to below 270, and force the election into the House for President and the Senate for Vice President?

Has anything like that happened in the past?  In 1969, there was an attempt to object to a “faithless” Elector who did not vote has his state had voted.  Dr. Lloyd Bailey (BS Wake Forest, MD Jefferson Med) of North Carolina and a member of the John Birch Society was offended by Richard Nixon’s plans to appoint Henry Kissinger and Daniel Patrick Moynihan to his administration and refused to vote for him.  The House and Senate refused to sustain the objection which had been led by Edmund Muskie, Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 1968.

In 2005, led by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Members of Congress objected to Ohio’s electoral college vote, The claim was that irregularities in Ohio had suppressed the vote.  Senator Barbara Boxer agreed to join in the complaint, to require the Members of the House and Senate voted separately and overwhelmingly voted down the objection. Although a change in the Ohio vote would have affected the election, John Kerry, the Democratic candidate,  insisted he would have nothing to do with this effort.

The 2005 effort was an extension of objections made in 2001 by the Congressional Black Caucus to accepting Florida’s vote.  In 2001, no Senator joined in the objection and, therefore, there was no separate session of the two branches of the legislature to consider the objection.

Some argue that when an objection is considered in the House, it should be voted by delegation.  In both cases where there was a vote, the vote was taken by individual.  However the vote may be counted, the likelihood that the House and Senate would overturn enough electoral college votes to make Donald Trump President for a second term is exceedingly slim.

Donald Trump is the first Presidential candidate to make a serious effort to overturn the electoral college vote and the popular vote and change who the election win is awarded to.  Donald Trump is the first Presidential candidate to manipulate American democracy since Aaron Burr.  Not familiar with Aaron Burr?  You can read up on it or, when we can go back to a more normal life, see Hamilton.