Americans like to know who the new president is on Election Day. This year, it might be not so fast, because COVID-19 means many millions of ballots are in the mail, and because Trump & Co are trashing the postal system, and because they’ve eliminated more than 1,000 polling stations in poor neighbourhoods to discourage voting, and because other weird and possibly terrible things might happen… or might already have happened.
Here are some things that could delay a result into next year, or provide an excuse for the Republican Supreme Court justices to decide who becomes President, like they did in 2000:
How votes are counted, or not
Voting is managed by the 50 states, not by a federal authority. Rules differ – for example, about when postal votes are counted, when they’re too late to count, and about who gets ‘cleansed’ off the rolls from the last election to this one. Hundreds of thousands of mostly poor and/or black voters will be told they don’t exist. These matters are decided by local party bosses; vast sums of money are involved.
Which states matter
A group of 538 people called ‘the electoral college’ actually decides the presidential election. Each state has as many voters in the college as they have members in the two houses of Congress, so the same bias toward small-population states that plagues the Senate also skews the college. This system was originally designed to bribe slave-owning states into joining the union. Today it means a few toss-up states – such as Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania – will decide who wins. The 50 states combined have 539 votes, so whoever gets 270 or more wins. Democrats Gore and Clinton won the most votes in 2000 and 2016 but were screwed by the skewed college thing, which could happen this time too.
What else could go wrong
Electoral college voters don’t have to vote for the candidate their citizens preferred – a state government could flip all their college votes to Trump even if Biden won that state by a landslide. They don’t need an excuse, but they might create one.
Trump’s mate, Roger Stone, organised a riot that helped sabotage vote counting in 2000.
Vote suppression expert Greg Palast asks: ‘What happens if Stone tweets, “There are 10,000 fraudulent ballots from Venezuela in the Jacksonville Post Office”’ – how long before that PO is in flames?’.
Proud Boys as weapons
There are hundreds more nightmare scenarios and every one has a dozen possible lawsuits. If only one suit by Trump or another Republican mogul makes it up to the Supreme Court, Trump’s six justices of the nine could endorse another four years of neo-fascism.
That ‘riot’ 20 years ago was staged by a few hired frat boys. Today there are thousands of angry ‘proud boys’ in SUVs and pickup trucks with automatic weapons up their wazoos, just itching to open fire on the mile-long lines of regular Americans trying to vote in Democratic neighbourhoods.
There will be blood; how much and when it goes viral could determine the future of us all. If the people’s wishes are trashed again, America’s brewing Second Civil War will rage more viral than all its viruses, and wilder than all its wildfires.
♦ Phillip Frazer will update on the United Fuck-Ups of America at coorabellridge.com.