Good morning Fight to Vote readers,
In a normal election year we might be wrapping up our newsletter by now, reporting on who came out to vote and speculating on the president-elect’s plans for the next four years. But this year we don’t have that luxury.
Donald Trump will not concede
Despite the fact that the president-elect, Joe Biden, leads in the popular vote by at least 5 million people, and despite the fact that he has significant leads in five key states, Donald Trump has baselessly claimed that the election is rigged against him.
He’s weaponizing those claims to undermine the election results, to cast doubt on the democratic process, and to try to convince the American people that he is the true winner.
These are his tactics
Litigation: The Trump campaign has lodged a slew of baseless lawsuits in swing states, with claims that range from “dead people voted” to “ballots that arrived late are being counted”. So far, as our reporter Sam Levine wrote this week, judges have ruled against the campaign in almost every instance, citing a lack of evidence.
Undermining the media: Trump and his supporters are even railing against Fox News because it called the election for Biden.
Federal investigation: William Barr, the attorney general, has authorized federal prosecutors to investigate election irregularities, an unprecedented move that prompted the head of the justice department’s election crimes unit to step down.
Calling on enablers: Trump is relying on figures such as Ken Starr; the lieutenant governor in Texas; and J Christian Adams, a former justice department official, to continue their crusade against so-called voter fraud.
Can Trump stage a coup?
Not really. Though the lawsuits continue, and the US supreme court has a conservative majority, it’s very unlikely that Trump can manipulate the levers of democracy and the safeguards in place.
As Sam Levine has written, there is a long-shot legal theory, floated by Republicans before the election, that Republican-friendly legislatures in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote in their states and appoint their own electors. Federal law allows legislatures to do this if states have “failed to make a choice” by the day the electoral college meets. But there is no evidence of systemic fraud or wrongdoing in any state, and Biden’s commanding margins in these places make it clear that the states have in fact made a choice. More on that here.
It’s more likely that Trump’s allegations will only serve to promote doubt about our electoral process, stoke more divisiveness, and encourage Republicans to resist Biden’s leadership for the next four years.
Is there any relief on the horizon?
Yes. While states have different deadlines by which they need to confirm election results, all election disputes need to be resolved by 8 December, called the “safe harbor” deadline.
On 14 December, the electors in the electoral college cast their ballots. (More about the electoral college system here.) In almost every state, the candidate with the most votes takes all the electoral votes for that state. With Biden’s lead, it’s nearly certain that he will be confirmed as president-elect.
Ready for this to be over? Here’s one thing you can do now
While all major news networks have called the election for Biden, Trump supporters have resorted to Facebook and other social media forums to spread lies about voter fraud. Be on the lookout for conspiracy theories and falsehoods attempting to undermine the election, and flag and report the posts if you choose. If you’re feeling thick-skinned and battle-ready, respond to posters with facts.
Meanwhile, you know it’s 2020 when somebody has made ... a Coup-o-Meter.