Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court decided the results of the 2000 US presidential election between Republican candidate George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore.
With the intention of tens of millions of Americans to vote by mail, and its connection with the filing of hundreds of lawsuits before US courts, the possibility of unexpected scenarios related to the announcement of the final election results increases.
American commentators expect more lawsuits to be filed after the vote ends on November 3, and they link this to the determination of President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress to expedite the nomination and appointment of Judge Amy Connie Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Constitutional Court.
All this increases the possibility of resorting to the judiciary, and some even go to a more extreme scenario where Congress is expected to decide the fate of the elections in the end.
Al-Jazeera Net presents in a question and answer all these technical details related to an American election that may end outside the scope of traditional expectations.
What is the reason for the growing fears of having to resort to the Supreme Court to decide the results of the 2020 presidential elections?
All indications are that the 2020 elections will witness high voting rates unprecedented in American history due to the expansion of early voting and the facilitation of voting by mail.
Many states allow mail counting and counting to begin only on Election Day or after voting ends on November 3rd. This leads to the expectation that the days following the election night will witness an increasing disparity between the primary election results and the final results after completing the counting and sorting of all postal ballot papers, which will push the final results of the elections to be challenged.
However, has this not happened before with every presidential election?
During previous elections, the vast majority of voting results were known as election night or the morning of the following day, but due to the magnitude of mail voting in these elections, results will not be known as quickly as was the case in previous elections.
The lack of formal announcement of the election results makes it easier for candidates to challenge the results in state courts or the Supreme Court, before and after the final results are officially announced.
What about the experience of the year 2000 when the Supreme Court settled the presidential election?
The Supreme Court played a key role in resolving the dispute over the 2000 election result between Democratic candidate Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush Jr.
The elections ended the night of November 7, and there was no clear winner, then the media reported contradictory numbers, and at first they expected Al Gore to be the winning candidate in Florida, but later announced that Bush won the majority of the state’s electorate, and Gore called Bush He immediately congratulated him.
But at 3 am the next morning it became clear that the Florida race was much closer than Al Gore’s aides had thought, and that the vote difference was only 600 votes, and Al Gore withdrew his admission of defeat in a second call to Bush.
The two parties resorted to the courts of the state of Florida, and after intense judicial deliberation, the Florida Supreme Court decided to return the hand count in some of the state’s counties, and the Bush team objected and referred the matter to the Supreme Court, which overturned the decision of the Florida court on December 12, 2000.
The Supreme Court decision came with a 5 to 4 majority (all nominees from the Democratic candidate voted together to allow the recount, and all Republican nominees refused to recount) and Bush won the 25 Florida votes in the electoral college and won the presidency.
After the Supreme Court intervened, Al Gore admitted defeat on December 13, and said in a televised address to the American people, “Although I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, I accept it.”
What is President Trump’s declared position on the results of the upcoming elections?
Trump has not committed to respecting the results of the presidential elections, agreeing to a smooth peaceful transfer of power so far, and has set conditions for the recognition of the election results, which are that they be conducted “fairly.”
Some commentators believe that Trump is preparing to create a state of legal and political chaos if he loses the elections, and the president’s repeated statements about his questioning of the legality and fairness of the election via postal ballot papers, and the possibility of them being fraudulent, raise widespread concerns from constitutional law experts.
Trump’s drastic decline in various opinion polls reinforces the expectation of his determination to question the integrity of the elections before and after they are held.
What about Joe Biden’s position?
Biden said that cheating is the only way in which he can lose the election to Trump, but he added that he will accept the result whatever it is, and the Democratic candidate has recruited hundreds of lawyers in many states in preparation for their use when necessary.
Hillary Clinton also asked Biden “not to admit defeat, whatever the circumstances, because I think this will take time.”
What is the impact of mail voting on voting results?
The spread of the Corona virus has caused huge numbers of voters to vote by mail, and because of this, the counting and counting of votes will take much longer than usual.
This likely means that the final result in the major swing states (where voter turnout ratios converge) will likely not be known for days or even weeks until all postal ballots are counted, especially since most states do not even allow absentee and postal ballots to be opened and count starts until one day. The election itself.
What happens before each state’s election results are officially certified?
Members of the Electoral College meet in their states in early December to cast their votes to choose the president and vice president, and the results are sent to the President of the Senate, and then Congress meets on January 6 to count and count the votes, after which the President of the Senate officially announces the name of the winning candidate. Documented, on January 20, at 12 noon, the president-elect takes the oath and becomes the new President of the United States.
What is the solution when the situation worsens and the final results of the presidential elections are not announced by January 20, the date of the inauguration of the new president?
If issues related to the elections are not resolved before the inauguration of a new president, Trump’s presidency ends at midday on January 20, and the House of Representatives chooses an interim president (Speaker of the House) to carry out the duties of the president until new elections are organized.
What is the solution in the event of a collision between the governor and the state parliament over the final approval of the election result and the electoral college for the state?
The matter could reach the Federal Supreme Court in the state, take the case to the Supreme Court, and the matter could end up before Congress.
Several alternatives remain before the Supreme Court, including:
First: It can exclude votes from some states on the grounds that its results are not clear enough to ratify it before the legal deadline of December 14 when the Electoral College must meet, and thus put the entire elections before the House of Representatives in order to make a decision. As outlined in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.
Second: The Supreme Court may refer to the Election Counting and Sorting Act of 1887, which stipulates that the House of Representatives and Senate together decide which electors in the Electoral College will be recognized, and thus requires Congress to decide which list of electoral bodies in each of the disputed states. It will be approved.
What is the significance of the congressional elections that take place on the day of the presidential election?
The outcome of the two houses of Congress, which will take place on the same day as the presidential election, will be very important, and there is an entirely unimportant scenario in which the final decision on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election may rest with Congress in one way or another. Because of this, the Democrats who control the majority of the House of Representatives are currently seeking to expand their power and achieve a majority in the Senate, and the Republicans enjoy a majority in the Senate with 53 seats, while the Democrats control 47 seats, and a Republican loss of 4 seats would pass the majority to the Democratic Party.
What is the role of state courts in resolving any dispute over the election results?
The slow and lengthy counting of votes plays a role in sowing doubts about the results and alleging that the elections will be rigged if any party loses.
The matter is complicated by the fact that there are local parliaments in a number of swing states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, controlled by Trump’s Republican allies, while the Democrats control the governorships of the three states.
The state governor must certify the election results within his state after they are approved by the Electoral College, and before they are sent to Congress.
There are concerns if there are disagreements about naming the members of the Electoral College so that it does not reflect the winning candidate in the state elections, that is, the state parliament refuses to recognize its results by naming a different electoral body, which will lead to a clash with the state governor and raise the matter to the state supreme court.
What is the role of Congress in this case?
If this happens and the courts return election cases to Congress as a political crisis, the new Congress, elected on November 3, will have to determine which Electoral College it accepts on January 6.
And if Democrats control the House and Senate on January 6, Trump may be in trouble.For any disputed state, the Democratic-controlled Congress will surely ratify the electors approved by the Democratic governor, not the Republican legislature.
Even if control is still divided between the “Democratic” House of Representatives and the “Republican” Senate, the 1887 law that gives the House of Representatives greater power will be referred, in which case the statute approved by the state governor (Democrat in those swing states) will be ratified.
Republicans will challenge the courts, which means the Supreme Court may ultimately need to determine whether to review the dispute or return it to Congress for a political solution.
Even if the Supreme Court tried to rule, it is not certain that the losing party would accept its ruling the way Al Gore did in 2000, when he dropped the election the day after the Supreme Court decided to halt the vote recount in Florida and award the victory to his opponent, Bush Jr.