US President Donald Trump’s latest strategy to attack the legitimacy of the US election centers on a bold show of influence by trying to persuade Republican lawmakers in the states that his rival, Joe Biden, overturned.
To succeed, Trump will need to overcome major legal hurdles and also overcome public condemnation and co-opting lawmakers in at least 3 states, so that he can break democratic standards.
Most election experts say the chances of Trump eventually becoming president are very slim, but US laws have never before seen such a test.
Biden won by a comfortable margin of 306 votes to 232 for Trump in the electoral college, but the process of formal confirmation of the victory will take place in the coming weeks.
In the US elections, a candidate becomes president by winning 270 votes in the electoral community. The members of the assembly belong to the competing parties, and vote for their candidate who wins the popular vote, and their number varies from state to state based on its population.
Usually, each state approves a republican or democratic list of its members in the electoral college dependent on the candidate who wins the popular vote.
The electoral college meets on December 14 to formally name the president, and the result is submitted to Congress for counting on January 6.
On January 20, the current presidential term ends and the new one begins.
The president has repeatedly claimed without evidence that the elections were stolen, and his campaign has filed lawsuits in crucial states, including Pennsylvania, as he tries to prevent officials from endorsing the vote. Rudy Giuliani, head of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday that more cases were being prepared.
Postponing or impeding the approval process may lead lawmakers in the House of Representatives in a given state to choose supporters of Trump in the electoral college, even in states that Biden won in the popular vote.
A source familiar with the Trump campaign’s judicial strategy said seeking to engage lawmakers “has become a more targeted approach.”
What is the role of members of state legislatures?
The outcome of the vote is usually approved by the governor or his deputy, and state legislators typically play no role in the process.
But Trump supporters have resorted to a phrase in the US Constitution that says that each state must choose the electoral college members “in the manner indicated by the legislature.”
The Trump campaign took the controversy a step further on Wednesday when, in a lawsuit, it claimed that the Pennsylvania election administration was flawed, allowing election officials to usurp the legislature’s power to make voting laws.
The campaign seeks to fix that defect by allowing the Republican-dominated state legislature to pick the electoral college and declare Trump the state winner, even though Biden won the popular vote.
This is a difficult legal issue, as the campaign needs to call on the court to cancel the votes of millions of Americans due to alleged minor infractions.
Ambiguous federal law
Federal law provides another avenue for lawmakers to select pro-Trump members in the electoral college in states that Biden won.
The law allows members of state legislatures to choose electoral college members if “the electorate” fails to make their choices “on election day.
Law experts say that lawmakers can pass a law requiring election irregularities to an extent that it is impossible to determine the outcome, and allow them to choose the members of the electoral college accordingly.
This could be implemented in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, where Republicans control their legislatures, while Democrats hold governorships and deputy governorships.