- Despite the numerous attempts by President Trump and his allies to undermine the outcome of the election, there is almost no chance he will still be in office after Jan. 20, 2021.
- While there are still a number of things that need to happen before Inauguration Day, there are two general ways that Trump could try to steal the election, though both are highly unlikely.
- The first is convincing the Republican-held legislatures in states that voted for Biden to claim the votes were incorrect, and send electors to the Electoral College who will vote for Trump.
- The second scenario would be for electors who pledged to Biden to vote for Trump instead. While this is something that happens, it has never changed the outcome of an election.
The Long Path Ahead
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the election, but for many, it still feels like there is a lot up in the air.
President Donald Trump has refused to concede, and many in his administration are acting as though he’s been re-elected and will still be in office after the inauguration on Jan. 20. That’s also on top of the numerous lawsuits Trump has filed and the fact that he and his allies keep claiming, without evidence, there has been massive election fraud.
While there is still a lot that needs to happen between now and Inauguration Day, and the president’s undemocratic tactics are enough to make anyone uncertain, there is one thing that needs to be made very clear: it is extremely unlikely that he will be able to overturn the will of the people.
Let’s take a look at what will take place between now and the inauguration, and how the actions the president has taken fit into that timeline.
Certifying Election Results
The very first thing that needs to happen is that states must certify their election results. The exact method for doing this varies from state to state, but the general way it works is that whichever local election officials are responsible for election administration first must count all the ballots, double-check totals, and make sure every valid vote has been included in those numbers.
Once that’s all one, those officials report their final totals to the state, and then the head election official — usually the secretary of state — compiles all the results from the local officials and gives them to the governor.
Notably, each state has its own deadline for this process, and some have already completed it, which makes sense because as you can imagine, this takes a lot longer in more populous places.
Then, once a state’s governor has all the totals from every county and municipality, they have to send them to Congress for what is known as a “certificate of ascertainment,” which lists the certified number of votes cast for each candidate as well as the names of the state’s electors.
As for the deadline for those certificates of ascertainment, they just need to be given to Congress before the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 14.
Safe Harbor Deadline
There is, however, a big incentive for states to give Congress those finalized counts before what is known as the safe harbor deadline on Dec. 8. This deadline is incredibly significant because it is the date by which all legal challenges and recounts must be settled and electors must be solidified by states.
For some context here, electors are the people who cast votes in the Electoral College. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of electoral votes that state has. For example, Arizona has 11 electoral votes, and thus, 11 electors.
While the way electors are selected is different in each state. Generally, each party chooses a slate of electors at their state conventions or by a vote of a party’s central committee.
When the voters in a given state cast their ballots for president, the party of whichever candidate wins the popular vote gets to designate electors who will go to Electoral College in December and vote for the person who won their state.
That’s why you often hear the phrase “winner-take-all” when it comes to the Electoral College. In all states, except Maine and Nebraska, whoever wins the most votes in a state gets all its electors.
However, if there are unresolved disputes over election results because of lawsuits, recounts, or other issues with certifying final counts and electors, then this whole process becomes a lot stickier. This is where hypothetical situations for how Trump could steal the election come into play.
There are two overarching ways that this could happen, though again, both are very unlikely.
Scenario 1: State Legislatures and Electors
The first scenario involves getting Republican-controlled legislatures in states that gave the popular vote to Biden to overrule that mandate.
They can do this by claiming that the results are invalid and then invoking their constitutional right to step in and choose a slate of electors they believe more accurately reflects the election results of their state.
This would result in the legislature sending pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College to cast the state’s official vote for the candidate the voters of that state explicitly did not choose. Notably, the idea has floated by several conservative commentators, pro-Trump legislators, and, according to reports, even Trump himself privately among aides.
To be clear, what these people are proposing would be a full-blown attempt to steal the election and defying the will of voters by ignoring election results. As a result, any state legislature that would even consider doing that would face massive legal and practical hurdles.
Without getting too deep nitty-gritty of all of this, because the legal situation here is incredibly complex state to state, all you need to know is that Trump would have to get multiple Republican-held legislatures on board to do this in multiple key states in order to change the outcome of the election.
Currently, the president has only won 232 electoral votes to Biden’s 306, meaning he would have to get the legislatures in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia to all do this. Even then he would still be short one electoral vote.
So that is almost impossible in itself, and beyond that, even if Trump did get all those Republican legislatures on board, all of those states except Georgia have Democratic governors or secretaries of state that would not go along with that plot to steal their elections.
Even Georgia’s Republican secretary of state has pushed back against attempts from the right to undermine the election results and said outright there was no fraud.
Now notably, there is also a possibility — though also a far fetched one — that a state sends conflicting elector slates. This scenario would happen if the governor of a state that voted for Biden certified a Democratic elector slate, but then the state’s legislature appointed a competing pro-Trump elector slate that withstood legal challenges.
In that case, there would effectively be two slates, and Congress would have to decide which one to count. If the House and the Senate disagree, the governor’s slate would be the one counted.
Scenario 2: Faithless Electors
The second possible way Trump could steal the election, which is even more of a longshot, centers around the concept of “faithless electors.”
Under the current political system, when a state’s party selects its electors, those electors pledge to vote faithfully to their party. Right now, more than 30 states and Washington, D.C. have laws that require electors to vote for their party’s winning candidate, and roughly 20 states also have laws that cancel the vote of faithless electors or penalize them for going against their pledge.
But in the states that do not have these regulations, an elector could technically cast one of their state’s full electoral votes for the candidate that did not win it. While this is something that does happen — there were seven faithless electors in 2016 — they have never changed the outcome of an election.
In the case with the state legislature’s electors scenario, experts say that given the wide margin of electoral votes Biden has over Trump, it is essentially impossible Trump could get enough faithless electors to sway the election.
Once the electors have cast their votes on Dec. 14, the newly-elected Congress will formally count and certify the votes on Jan. 6. This process is largely symbolic but members still are allowed to object to the vote counts from any state.
If one House member and one Senate member each give written objections, those votes will be debated and then voted on by each chamber, though both have to reject a state’s votes in order for them to be invalidated.
Again, highly unlikely, and in order for the date of the inauguration to be moved, it would require a lot of Constitutional heavy-lifting. So with all that said, it seems almost certain Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, and Donald Trump will no longer be president.
See what others are saying: (The New Times) (TIME) (The Associated Press)
NY Gov. Cuomo Aides Reportedly Altered Nursing Home Death Toll Data
- Aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) altered a July report from the state’s Department of Health to cover up the extent of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes, according to Thursday reports from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
- Last month, Cuomo admitted that his administration withheld death toll data in order to prevent a possible federal misconduct investigation.
- However, the new reports claim Cuomo’s staffers attempted to conceal the true numbers earlier than previously known by directly altering the DOH’s report to exclude nursing home residents who died in outside facilities.
- The DOH then used the incomplete number to claim New York had lower nursing home deaths than other states that included out-of-facility deaths when in reality their figures were much higher than everywhere else in the country.
New York Nursing Home Scandal Escalates
Advisers to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) allegedly re-wrote a report from health officials to conceal the number of COVID-related deaths in the state’s nursing homes, according to new reports published by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Thursday.
Both Democrats and Republicans accused the Cuomo administration of intentionally withholding the full toll last month after his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, apologized to state legislators for refusing to provide data they requested in August. DeRosa explained that they had sidelined the request in order to prevent a possible misconduct investigation that stemmed from a similar inquiry by the Department of Justice.
Legislators and the DOJ had asked for the data after the state’s Health Department published a report in July detailing the impact of a controversial nursing home policy Cuomo had enacted at the beginning of the pandemic in March.
The policy, which Cuomo later rescinded in May, prohibited nursing homes from refusing to re-admit residents or admit new residents from hospitals solely on the basis that they had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The directive was aimed at keeping hospital admittance low and mirrored similar actions other states had taken at the time, but many nursing home operators and legislators claimed the move had encouraged the spread of the virus amongst one of the most vulnerable populations.
The Health Department’s July report, however, found the policy was not to blame. Additionally, the agency also said the 6,432 nursing home residents that had died was lower than figures in other northeastern states when measured as a percentage of the population.
Lawmakers requested to see the data behind the report, and suspicions arose when the Cuomo administration refused to provide the information, launching a nearly six-month battle.
State Attorney General Report
Then at the end of January, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) published a report claiming the administration had undercounted the nursing home deaths by the thousands, and that Cuomo’s March directive may have been responsible for higher deaths.
The Health Department’s report, James said, had left out residents who had died of COVID in outside facilities such as hospitals, but still claimed New York’s tolls were lower than other states that had counted residents who died in other places.
Shortly after James’ report, the department publicized more than 3,800 unreported deaths of nursing home residents who had died of COVID-19 in hospitals.
Cuomo refused to address the controversy for weeks, only speaking out after DeRosa’s comments leaked. During a press conference on Feb. 15, he took responsibility for not fulfilling the request for data sooner, but insisted that the nursing home deaths had always been reported correctly and transparently, arguing the difference was just a matter of “categorization.”
What the New Reports Reveal
Both Cuomo and DeRosa have maintained that they withheld the data from legislators out of concern that the Trump administration would politicize the DOJ inquiry.
However, the new reports from The Times and WSJ allege that Cuomo and his aides had actually started hiding the true numbers months earlier and directly altered the Health Department’s July report.
According to a draft of the Health Department’s July report seen by the outlets and at least half a dozen people with direct knowledge, the initial version of the report contained a chart that put the nursing home death toll at 9,250 — 50% higher than the figure that was later included in the final version.
The chart also compared the full total including residents who died in hospitals to the same totals in other states, revealing that New York’s deaths far surpassed that of all others. At the time, the state with the next-highest nursing home deaths was New Jersey with 6,150.
According to The Times, the report was rewritten by three of Cuomo’s top staffers to remove the encompassing figures, including DeRosa. None of the officials had any public health expertise. The move reportedly set off a battle with health officials working on the report and further exacerbated the already tense relationship between Cuomo and his Health Department, which eventually prompted nine top officials to leave in February.
The governor’s office responded to the reporters in a statement Thursday night from Special Counsel Beth Garvey, who said the out-of-facility data was omitted because the Health Department “could not confirm it had been adequately verified.”
Gary Holmes, a spokesman for the Health Department, also told reporters the agency “was comfortable with the final report and believes fully in its conclusion that the primary driver that introduced Covid into the nursing homes was brought in by staff.”
The new allegations, however, come as Cuomo is already facing mounting political pressure and calls to resign over the nursing home scandal as well as recent accusations of sexual misconduct by three women, including two former employees.
After the third woman came forward, Cuomo apologized on Wednesday for the “pain” he caused, but rejected calls for his resignation. The FBI has opened an inquiry into the nursing home scandal, and the sexual harassment allegations will soon be investigated by state Attorney General James’ office.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal) (The Guardian)
House Passes Landmark Elections Bill To Expand Voting Rights
- House Democrats passed the For the People Act on Wednesday, a broad voting rights bill that aims to enhance voting rights.
- Among other measures, the legislation would mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, restore voting rights to former felons, and impose new disclosure requirements for campaign donations and political advertising.
- Democrats say the act is necessary to ensure American’s right to vote, especially as state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access and consolidate GOP power.
- Republicans have argued that states, not the federal government, should decide how elections are run and claimed the new bill would lead to fraud that helps liberal candidates.
House Approves For the People Act
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping elections bill Wednesday that aims to significantly expand federal voting rights all over the country.
The bill, called the For the People Act, was proposed by Democrats and passed 220 to 210 almost entirely along party lines. According to reports, if signed into law, it would be the most comprehensive enhancement of federal protections since the 1960s.
The bill contains a wide variety of provisions, but the most significant fall into two broader categories: creating uniform standards for voting and increasing financial transparency.
Regarding the voting rights standards, among other things, the bill would:
- Weaken restrictive state voter ID laws.
- Mandate that state governments use existing records to automatically register voters.
- Guarantee no-excuse mail voting and at least 15 days of early voting for all federal elections.
- Make it harder to purge voter rolls.
- Restore voting rights to former felons.
- End partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to appoint independent commissions to draw congressional districts.
As for what the bill aims to do regarding expanding transparency, it would:
- Impose new disclosure requirements for “dark money” donations used to finance campaigns.
- Create a public financing option for congressional campaigns.
- Require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
- Require tech platforms to disclose political advertising information.
Arguments For And Against
Democrats have argued that this legislation is essential to protecting and ensuring the right to vote.
The task, they say, is especially important now because Republican-controlled state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access as a reaction to former President Donald Trump’s loss and efforts to undermine the election. Many Republicans have used Trump’s false claims about voter fraud to promote their legislation.
Democrats have said these bills are a very transparent attempt by Republicans to consolidate their power because they know they benefit from lower voter turnout, and thus their strategy to win more races is just simply to make voting harder. As a result, Democrats have said the For the People Act is key to combatting these bills
“Everything is at stake,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said Wednesday. “We must win this race, this fight.”
Republicans, for their part, have argued that states, not the federal government, should make changes to how elections are run, and that the legislation would lead to fraud that benefits Democrats.
“House Democrats do not get to take their razor-thin majority — which voters just shrunk — and use it to steamroll states and localities to try and prevent themselves from losing even more seats next time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in response to the bill’s passage.
However, many have disputed that claim by noting that there is no evidence of widespread fraud that helped Democrats in the last election. By contrast, there are years of evidence that Republicans do benefit from making it harder for people to vote and gerrymandering districts, a fact that McConnell himself seemed to acknowledge by implying that Democrats win more when voting rights are expanded.
Despite Republican objections, recent polls have found that most Americans support having more voter protections. According to a January survey by Data for Progress, 67% of Americans back the For the People Act, including a majority of Republicans.
Still, the legislation is all but doomed in the Senate, which struck down an almost identical version passed by the House in 2019. While Democrats technically have a majority now, the current 50-50 split will require a minimum of 10 Republicans to join forces with all 50 Democrats to avoid the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Texas Governor Will Reopen State “100%” and End Mask Mandate Against Expert Advice
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Tuesday that he was opening the state “100%” and ending the mask mandate starting March 10, against health guidance from federal officials.
- Abbott justified his decision by noting that nearly 6 million Texans have been vaccinated and hospitalizations are down in the state.
- Experts, however, pointed out that less than 2 million of the state’s 29 million residents are fully inoculated, and the CDC currently ranks Texas 48th for vaccination rates out of all 50 states.
- On Tuesday alone, governors in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan as well as local leaders in Chicago and San Francisco also announced plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Abbott Announces Major COVID Policy Changes
Starting March 10, Texas will no longer have a state-wide mask mandate or any coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and facilities, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Tuesday.
The move represents the most expansive reopening of any state and makes Texas the largest state to lift its public masking requirement. However, it also goes entirely against the recommendation of the nation’s top experts.
During a press conference Monday, Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned leaders against rolling back restrictions. She cited the fact that the recent nation-wide decline in cases has been stalling and that there has been community spread of the new variants — three of which have been found in Texas, saying:
“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” she said.
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress,” she continued.
“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
Conditions in Texas
While cases have been declining in Texas, like most of the country, there is still a lot of data that makes Abbott’s decision especially concerning.
According to The New York Times tracker, Texas still ranks within the top ten states with the highest weekly cases per capita, reporting a weekly average of just over 7,200. Texas also has more hot-spot counties than any other state, according to Business Insider’s analysis of the Times data, which found that 10 counties have reported more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents on average over the last week.
Notably, that number could be skewed because of the massive drop in the testing due to a recent storm that left millions without power and clean water. In fact, experts have warned that Texas could see more COVID cases in the fallout of the storm because people were forced to shelter together.
Abbott, however, did not focus on any of that in his announcement. Instead, he cited other metrics, noting that nearly 5.7 Texans have been vaccinated. He also pointed to declines in hospitalizations.
But both of these justifications are misleading. While it is true that Texas has vaccinated close to 6 million people, according to the CDC, less than 2 million out of 29 million state residents have received both doses needed to be considered fully inoculated.
Beyond that, the CDC’s latest vaccination report ranks Texas 48th in vaccination rates out of all 50 states. Part of that is tied to the lag the state faced because of the storm, but experts still say this just proves that the state needs to be focus on catching up and vaccinating more people instead of rolling back restrictions.
To that point, public health officials have also pushed back against Abbott’s use of declining hospitalization rates as a rationale for his reopening plans. They warned that current hospitalization declines are already slowing and could reverse, and that will only get worse with reopenings.
Other States Reopen
Texas, however, is not the only state that has rolled back restrictions lately, or even just in the past 24 hours.
On Tuesday alone, the governors of Louisiana and Michigan as well as the mayors of Chicago and San Francisco all announced that they would be easing some restrictions on businesses and/or the capacity at which they operate.
Right after Abbott’s announcement, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made a nearly identical one with an even shorter timeline. In a tweet, he said that starting Wednesday, he would lift all county mask mandates and allow businesses to “operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.”
The recent easing of restrictions is part of a broader trend — and not just in states that have Republican governors or large conservative populations.
While California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) slammed Abbott’s move as “absolutely reckless,” he has also been widely condemned by leaders in his state for recently rolling back numerous restrictions.
Over the last few weeks, the Democratic governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and New York have all also lifted or otherwise modified regulations to make them less restrictive.