The head of the Federal Elections Commission on Monday warned that there is a “substantial chance” the final outcome of the presidential election may not be known on election night.
“Let me just tell everybody, we’re all going to need to take a deep breath and be patient this year because there’s a substantial chance we are not going to know on election night what the results are,” FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said on CNN’s “New Day.”
With more mail-in voting, Weintraub said the winners of down-ticket races may not be known, either. “Probably for the presidency, but maybe for many other races that are important to people, and that’s OK. If it takes a little bit longer to count all the votes accurately, that’s what we need to do in order to ensure that everyone’s vote counts,” she said.
Weintraub, a Democrat, said that there will likely be more mail-in voting because of the COVID-19 virus, but she asserted that there can “absolutely” be a fair election. “It’s been done before. It’s safe. There is no substantial risk of fraud involved in absentee voting,” she said.
President Trump last week said it could take months to determine the November election outcome.
“Now, because of the China virus, we’re supposed to stay home, send millions of ballots all over the country. Millions and millions,” Trump said in an interview with “Axios on HBO.” “You know, you could have a case where this election won’t be decided on the evening of Nov. 3. This election could be decided two months later.”
Chaos would ensue if the election is not called quickly, Trump said. “Lots of things will happen during that period of time, especially when you have tight margins. Lots of things can happen. There’s never been anything like this.”
Trump said his campaign is currently exploring legal action to “end” mail-in voting. “You look at some of the corruption having to do with universal, mail-in voting. Absentee voting is OK if you have to apply, you have to go through a process,” Trump said. “There is no way you can go through a mail-in vote without massive cheating.”
And Trump noted that “somebody got a ballot for a dog.” It’s unclear what Trump was referring to, but one Atlanta family recently found a voter registration application in their mailbox addressed to Cody Tims — their cat, which died 12 years ago.
One New York Times columnist suggested last week that the election’s outcome could be up in the air until Thanksgiving.
“Picture this Thanksgiving: turkey, football (maybe), tenser-than-usual interactions with relatives. And perhaps a new tradition: finding out who actually won the presidential election,” Ben Smith wrote.
The coronavirus crisis means that states like Pennsylvania may be counting mail-in ballots for weeks, while President Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. And the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news and some version of that maddening needle on The New York Times website.
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