Why will we perhaps not have the result of the presidential election in the United States from November 4?

In Dallas, October 24.

Donald Trump – who is running for a second term as President of the United States – warned at the end of August: the result of the presidential election of November 3 could put ” weeks “, ” months “, even not ” never ” to be known.

Across the Atlantic, if the media generally report a winner the night after the vote – as soon as they estimate that one of the candidates has secured 270 of the 538 voters -, it is nevertheless necessary to wait a few weeks before the final result of the vote is validated by the electoral authorities and becomes official. A priori, therefore, nothing new if the name of the next person to settle in the Oval office is not revealed in the wake of the ballot. This has already been the case in the past, especially during particularly close elections, such as in 2000 during the duel between Al Gore and George W. Bush, the epilogue of which was suspended from the vote count in Florida.

Read the column: “Nobody knows if on November 4 the United States will have a president-elect. Not even on December 4 ”

But now, for months, Donald Trump has been preparing the ground: if he loses the election, it is necessarily because it will have been rigged. The White House tenant’s tendency to exaggeration – and bad faith – is no longer to be proven, but it is true that the counting of the votes could be complicated by the development of postal voting, expanded this year in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic.

In nine states (plus the District of Columbia) ballots are sent directly to registrants, without requiring them to request it (Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, New Jersey, Vermont and Hawaii). In 36 others, if they want to vote by post, voters must apply without having to justify themselves. Finally, five states, all Republican strongholds, still claim a valid reason for refusing to go to a polling station – among them Texas, which decided that fear of the coronavirus was not a sufficient excuse for them. voters under 65.

Also read the story: Postal voting sparks pitched battle ahead of election in US

According to the USA Facts site, 85.4% of voters now reside in states that allow postal voting, and, three weeks before “D-Day,” more than ten million Americans have already voted by mail, from after a count by the Elections Project of the University of Florida: a record.

However, notes the political think-tank Bipartisan Policy Center, the authorities will need more time than usual to count these votes, given their larger volume. The results may therefore be incomplete on election night. Above all, the data available on the night of November 3 to 4 could provide a biased view of the balance of power, alert The Washington Post.

Also read the decryption: Postal voting, a new issue for American elections

Several think tanks, including the Bipartisan Policy Center, recommend that voters send in their votes as quickly as possible and that states start counting them at least a week before the poll is held. But, in practice, each state has a specific timetable. If the counting begins as soon as the ballots are received in some states, others do not start processing the votes until the day of the election, ie the evening of November 3. This is notably the case of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, considered to be pivotal states, or swing states – those where the ballot is particularly disputed.

Read also our series on the flaws of American democracy: The disparity in voting rules may create confusion

However, the counting of votes by correspondence is longer than that of the votes cast in the polling stations. And in each ballot, some of them are not taken into account: for the 2016 ballot, 1% of them had been invalidated, according to the federal electoral commission. Among the most frequently mentioned reasons: receipt of ballots after the deadline, the absence of a mandatory signature on the voting envelope or a signature not corresponding to that appearing on the State registers.

“Many voters are voting by mail for the first time, so mistakes are expected, points out Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina Election Committee. We strongly encourage voters to read the instructions carefully and ensure that they complete all of the required fields on the envelope. “ North Carolina, like several other states, offers voters who made certain mistakes that could invalidate their ballot – such as missing or mismatched signatures – the opportunity to correct them. The speed of the count also depends on the equipment available to each State.

  • The “red mirage” or “blue turn”

One of the risks that these delays pose to the proper conduct of the ballot is the possibility that one side or the other may decide to declare victory, on the basis of incomplete results, on election night.

Donald Trump – who voted early in Florida – having previously expressed a number of criticisms of this voting system, his supporters should be more inclined to move to the polling stations on November 3. Thus, the exit polls risk highlighting an over-representation of the voters of the Grand Old Party; this is what political analysts across the Atlantic call “Red mirage”.

Because it is likely that the vote count in the days and possibly weeks following election day will tip the scales in the side of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden – something the University of Law professor ‘Ohio State, Edward B. Foley, theorized in 2012 under the term of “Blue turn”.

According to an Ipsos survey for the Reuters news agency in August, nearly half of Democrats expressed their intention to use postal voting for this poll, compared to only 25% of Republicans. What confirms, moreover, the first data collected in the pivotal States, reports The New York Times.

This phenomenon was recently observed during the Senate race in Arizona, in 2018. The first counts made in the wake of the ballot gave Republican Martha McSally ahead of her Democratic rival Kyrsten Sinema. But there were still nearly a million mail-order ballots to go through, and a week later it was Mr.me Sinema who was declared the winner.

  • What consequences for the future?

“Whoever gets the majority of the electoral college votes is the next president under our Constitution. While false declarations of victory can be very damaging to our democratic process, they cannot determine the winner ”, insists the director of the center for governmental law at the law school of Albany (New York), Richard Rifkin, in the political program “Capital Tonight” on the cable channel Spectrum News 1.

“The longer it takes to count the mail-in ballots, the more the narrative will be imposed on Trump supporters and become their evidence to question the possible unfavorable results of the elections ”Michigan-based Republican political strategist Dennis Darnoi, Reuters warns. This scenario is all the more plausible given that Donald Trump regularly warns his camp against elections that would be ” rigged “ and plays with the idea of ​​not recognizing the outcome of the ballot.

The giants of social networks are also preparing for this eventuality. According to The New York TimesFacebook founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg holds daily meetings with other officials about the risks his platforms could be used to challenge the results. A spokesperson for the social network also said at the end of September that Facebook “Will reject all political advertisements which declare a successful candidate before the official results have been confirmed”.

  • What is the legal situation?

States have a “Security period” (“Safe harbor period”) five weeks after polling day – until December 8 this year – to resolve any disputes or contested votes, and to report their final result to the Electoral College. The latter is due to meet on December 14, for what traditionally amounts to a simple vote of approval of an already clear result.

But several voices, like that of law professor Edward B. Foley, have come up to ask Congress to extend the deadline for this. “Security period” to 1er January, in order to give States the possibility of verifying and forwarding the count of all the ballots. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio even proposed a review of a law to achieve this goal and avoid any “Chaos” post-election. But if the latter were to be validated by Congress, Donald Trump would still have to sign it for it to be implemented, which seems unlikely, explains The Washington Post.

Read also our series on the flaws of American democracy: How the Electoral College Benefits Republicans

Asked for the program “Capital Tonight”, William Banks, professor of law at Syracuse University (New York) estimated: “On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say that my worry [sur le bon déroulé de ce scrutin] is 9. There are several plausible scenarios that could derail this election. “

Our selection of articles on the presidential election in the United States


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