Countdown and Recounting

Breakfast With Bwana

By Anil Madan

In general, America’s presidential elections have been “decided” on election day or in the wee hours after all polls are closed. But the word “decided” is inappropriate. If the results point inexorably to a win in any given state by one of the major party candidates, a media organization such as AP or one of the major TV/Cable networks will “call” that state for the apparent winner. If these “calls” amount to a total of 270 electoral votes, we have a presumptive President-elect.

Trump’s accusations of voter fraud and voting irregularities have no factual basis… But he is entitled to his day in court.Photo –

At that point, the apparent loser, knowing that he or she is done for, calls his opponent and concedes. The election has been effectively decided.

But this is not always so. Al Gore called George W. Bush in 2000 to concede, only to call him back and withdraw his concession as the results in Florida appeared to have been miscalled by media outlets. Eventually, after a recount fiasco and lawsuits by both the Bush and Gore sides, Al Gore conceded a second time following an adverse Supreme Court of the U.S. decision.

A candidate’s concession is not required by law and legally it means nothing. But practically, and for purposes of comity to the nation, it means everything. It is a call to the candidate’s supporters to “stand down and stand by” if you will. It is a call to the nation to rally behind the next President. It is a call to honour the will of the people. In effect, it says the election has been decided.

But an early concession speech is not the sine qua non of Democracy no matter what the liberal media types tell you.

President Trump has every right to seek a recount. In many states, a recount is automatic if the vote count shows a differential within specified ranges. In some states, a candidate may request a recount under specified conditions.

From what we can see, Trump’s accusations of voter fraud and voting irregularities, which are mostly claims of miscounting votes, have no factual basis and put them somewhere between baseless and futile.

But Trump is entitled to his day in court. Yes, even if most of his challenges have been thrown out by the courts. The fact is this election is not yet formally decided.

As of now, Biden is projected to win at least 290 electoral votes. But the state of Georgia will have a hand count recount of its nearly five million ballots. Some states have automatic recounts and some states allow a candidate to ask for a recount provided the vote discrepancy is within specified parameters.

Trump’s claims of voting irregularities and voter fraud appear to be baseless. At some point, they will likely appear futile especially if the Georgia recount affirms Biden’s apparent win. In general, recounts end up with differences in the hundreds, not thousands of votes. And, as of now, Biden has a 14,000 vote lead out of nearly 5 million votes cast. That’s a margin of 0.28%. So, the count could change. But Georgia has only 16 electoral votes so even if he loses Georgia, Biden would still have enough votes. What is he loses both Georgia and Pennsylvania? Well, then we have a different story. Unlikely, but different.

There is an underlying process here yet to be fulfilled. After mandatory and requestable recounts are done, each state has requirements for certification of its vote. Georgia, for example, requires certification by November 20th. Then, there is a federal deadline for certification: December 14th. 

Eventually, in January, the Electoral College meets to cast its votes. And then, if one candidate has enough electoral votes, we have a formal President-elect. If not, the matter goes to the House of Representatives.

It certainly appears that Trump has no hope to change the result of the election. But there is a theoretical possibility that it could happen.

The classy thing for Trump to have done would have been to say that while he is contesting the result, he will give Biden access to funds, office space, and security briefings in anticipation of a transition. If it turns out that Trump won, no harm, no foul. But since when did anyone expect that Trump would be classy?

The sycophantic bootlicking by his fellow Republicans is even more disgusting than Trump’s own behaviour.

This too shall pass.


Below are links to a couple of articles pointing to the futility of Trump’s challenges.

* Published in print edition on 13 November 2020

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