A slew of political pundits say the 2020 presidential election might not end on Election Day. With COVID-19 still a concern for Americans, mail-in voting is expected to soar, meaning millions of votes won’t be counted for days or even weeks.
Remember the election of 2000?
So what exactly happens if there’s no winner? Here’s what happens.
States have more than a month in which to count ballots and conduct recounts if necessary. While deadlines vary, mail-in ballots can come in until Nov. 23. States then have until Dec. 12 to certify the election results. The Electoral College will not hold a vote for electors to cast their state’s ballots until Dec. 14.
In the Electoral College, the candidate who receives at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes will win the White House. If there’s still no winner, the Constitution kicks in. According to the 12th Amendment, the House of Representatives elects the president and the Senate elects the vice president. That has happened only once, in 1825, when John Quincy Adams won.
But it’s not a straight vote by all 435 lawmakers. Instead, each state casts a unified ballot — one state, one vote.
Twenty-seven states currently have a majority of Republican representatives, 22 have a majority of Democrats, and one state tied. If a president isn’t selected before Congress reconvenes on Jan. 6, 2021, Republicans in the House would eventually pick their candidate: Donald Trump. But all that could change depending on the outcome of House and Senate elections on Nov. 3.
No one knows what will happen in the election, but some prognosticators say it could take a while before the winner is known.
“A top Democratic data and analytics firm told ‘Axios on HBO’ it’s highly likely that President Trump will appear to have won — potentially in a landslide — on election night, even if he ultimately loses when all the votes are counted,” Axios reported.
Way more Democrats will vote by mail than Republicans, due to fears of the coronavirus, and it will take days if not weeks to tally these. This means Trump, thanks to Republicans doing almost all of their voting in person, could hold big electoral college and popular vote leads on election night….
That is what this group, Hawkfish, which is funded by Michael Bloomberg and also does work for the Democratic National Committee and pro-Biden Super PACs, is warning is a very real, if not foreordained, outcome.
“We are sounding an alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump,” Hawkfish CEO Josh Mendelsohn told Axios.
There has been precedent in the 21st century. After the Nov. 7, 2000, election, both George W. Bush and Al Gore came up short of the 270 electoral votes needed. Florida, with 25 electoral votes, remained up in the air.
Four days later, Palm Beach County announced it would manually recount all 462,657 ballots cast there. Bush sued to stop manual counting, but a federal court refused. After overseas absentee ballots were tallied Nov. 18, Bush’s lead in Florida grew to 930 votes. After more legal wrangling, Bush’s lawyers on Nov. 22 appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the matter.
On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments on Bush’s appeal. A week later, the high court halted the manual count. But it wasn’t until Dec. 12 that the Supreme Court overturned the Florida Supreme Court, ruling 5-4 that there would be no more recounting of Florida’s disputed presidential votes.
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