“It’s a legal matter baby. You got me on the run. It’s a legal matter baby. A legal matter from now on.” — The Who
Most of us are old enough to remember the 2000 election and its ugly aftermath. There were hanging chads, butterfly ballots, and the Supreme Court and all of its irrelevant splendor. It became a footnote for the history books. It was the first time since 1876 that a presidential candidate had won the popular vote and lost the election.
The 1876 election brought the end of Reconstruction. It was part of a brokered deal to allow Rutherford B. Hayes to be elected president of the United States. When I say brokered deal it was literally that. Some states “accidentally” submitted two sets of electoral votes, so a commission was needed to determine which sets of electors were the proper ones.
The 2000 election came down to Florida where a number of ballots were contested because of the hanging chads and the fact that the ballot was apparently confusing. Bush v. Gore settled the matter and Bush was able to become president. That brought us the “War of Terror” and the Great recession later in the decade.
The initial thought was that these elections were anomalies in history. People often complain about the electoral college, but it rarely ever has any real effect on election results. That is until 2016 and now. We saw the popular vote winner lose again last time. As a lifelong Democrat, don’t think I haven’t noticed that it was the Democrat that got screwed each time.
Friends and family have asked how I think the election will turn out. It is becoming harder and harder to answer that question dispassionately. That has little to do with the politics of the particular candidate’s platforms. I’ve always had strong opinions about that, but that hasn’t affected my ability to be dispassionate when it comes to making a prediction. I’m struggling to do that this time around.
I’m struggling to do that because of the legal maneuvering being done by one side. Voter suppression is alive and kicking. Lawyers are already contesting mail in votes. Wisconsin now will not count any mail in votes that arrive after election day. That is even if they are postmarked prior to the election. The post office has been gutted by the Trump appointed Postmaster General. They removed sorting machines and tried to limit overtime. Some of these moves have been challenged, but it’s too late.
Then, in Texas, Governor Abbott has limited drop off boxes to one site per county. When you add it all up you see the overall effect. Fortunately, these tactics have to be fought on a state by state basis. If Trump had managed to do all three nationwide it might have been enough to turn the tide. As it stands, it will only affect selected states. Yet, in a close enough election, selected states are really all you need.
Will all of this legal maneuvering (that is a just a smattering of what is being done) change the course of history this time around? We will have to find out. The thought process is that if in person voting ends up going Trump’s way he might well declare victory before the mail in votes are tallied. That way, he can reasonably contest the final results. This is particularly true now that he has stacked the Supreme Court and made frequent comments questioning the validity of mail in voting.
So, I can predict the general election popular vote with a decent degree of certainty. Yet, when you throw in all of the legal chicanery in selected individual states, it is difficult to predict the Electoral college. These maneuvers might only affect one to three percent of the overall national election. That’s not likely enough to affect the overall vote, but it could impact individual states. This is where it gets bumpy folks. Let’s strap in and enjoy the ride.