Monthly Archives: December 2020

Election 2020: Day 57

A few bits and pieces, on the penultimate day of 2020:

  • Yesterday the Republican who had just won election to the House from the Louisiana 5th, 41-year-old Luke Letlow, died from COVID-19. That makes him the first member of Congress (broadly construed, since he was days away from being sworn in) to pass away from the disease. He had been hospitalized a week before Christmas, less than two weeks after he actually won election. I hadn’t noticed this race until his death, but under Louisiana’s ‘jungle general’ system there was actually a runoff in early December; however it was between Letlow and another Republican (in the general the various Republican candidates garnered over 68% of the vote).
  • Pelosi has confirmed that she will provisionally seat the Republican candidate who appears to have prevailed in the Iowa 3rd by 6 votes, notwithstanding the fact that the Democratic challenger will continue to have her appeal heard by the House Administration Committee.
  • The latest results in the New York 22nd have the Republican challenger up by 29 votes, but there are still hundreds of votes that will be submitted to a judge for potential further inclusion in the tally.
  • A supplemental legal filing in the Gohmert v. Pence lawsuit, regarding the Vice-President’s role regarding the counting of electoral votes, appears to indicate that the reason Gohmert has needed to sue Pence is that Pence (quite appropriately) refused to sign on to Gohmert et al’s absurd interpretation of the 12th Amendment.
  • Trump continues to attack Georgia Republican politicians that he had previously endorsed, today calling for Governor Kemp to resign, calling him “an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia.” Trump’s renewed frustration with Kemp comes in the wake of yesterday’s news that Georgia had completed a signature audit of over 15,000 mail-in votes from Cobb County, finding none that were fraudulent and only two for which the signature on the envelope did not match voter registration records, suggesting an accuracy rate of 99.99% in election officials’ process for validating mail-in votes before they were counted.
  • Trump has appealed the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent unfavorable ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The core argument Trump is making is that Wisconsin election officials, in taking actions not explicitly approved by the Wisconsin legislature to allow certain types of voters to cast absentee ballots, violated Article II of the U.S. Constitution with the result that Wisconsin has “failed to make a choice,” which would then allow the (Republican-controlled) Wisconsin legislature to submit its own set of electors. If Wisconsin were the tipping point state for the Presidential election, this case might be of greater interest.
  • The tight margins in both the House and Senate have surely impacted Biden’s thinking in selecting his Cabinet. No Senators have been selected to date, despite many of the leading Democratic presidential primary candidates being in the Senate (Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren). Harris’ post-inauguration replacement as the junior senator from California has been named by the Democratic Governor: Alex Padilla, who will be the first Latino senator from California. Three sitting House members have been named to Biden Administration posts, but they all represent safe Democratic districts: Louisiana 2nd (Richmond, to a White House post), which was gerrymandered to be the only Democratic-leaning district in the state; New Mexico 1st (Haaland, for Interior), which went 60-37 for Biden; and Ohio 11th (Fudge, for HUD), which went 80-20 for Biden.

Election 2020: Day 55

First update in a while. As Eric B and Rakim put it, “It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you…”

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Nothing has really changed in the Senate in the past month, except that Arizona’s Mark Kelly has physically assumed his new seat, replacing McSally for the lame duck session. We are only 8 days away from the two Georgia Senate runoffs, the outcome of which will determine whether the Biden presidency starts with 48, 49, or 50 Democratic Senators. These will have been the two most expensive U.S. Senate races in history. The latest polling averages from 538 have Perdue and Ossoff tied, and Warnock up a point on Loeffler; but who the heck knows. Anything could happen here.

Over in the House, the score is currently 222-211 for the Democrats, with two seats still in doubt:

  • In the Iowa 2nd, the official result is that the Republicans have won the seat by 6 votes: 196,964 to 196,958. That would be a pick-up for the Republicans, the Democratic incumbent having retired. However, the Democratic candidate alleges that there were 22 votes that were inappropriately excluded from the count, and those votes broke 18-3 in favor of her, so she really should have won by 9 votes. The House may ultimately have to reach a determination on the matter.
  • In the New York 22nd, as of Christmas Eve the Democratic incumbent was ahead by 14 votes: 155,625 to 155,611. However there are still issues to resolve and the new Congress will start with the seat vacant.

And then there’s the Presidential election.

On one level, things are progressing fairly normally. Biden’s final margin in popular vote was 3.5% and exceeded 7.0 million votes. In early December every state certified their election results, without significant drama. And on the constitutionally-prescribed day of December 14th each state’s Electoral College process went off, without a hitch. There were no situations where (say) the legislature submitted one set of electors while the governor submitted another, as was feared to be possible in Michigan (where Biden won and the governor is a Democrat but the legislature is Republican); although there were some theatrical exercises in some states, where the losing slate of Republican electors met to symbolically cast their votes for Trump. And there weren’t even any faithless electors: What ought to have been a 306-232 victory actually turned into a 306-232 victory, unlike in 2016. Nine days from now, the new Congress is scheduled to open the Electoral College votes and formally ratify what is already known to have occurred.

On another level, the phrase “Trump coup” has been bandied about a lot, and not in a bridge context.

Trump appears to be in complete denial that he could possibly have lost the election, and instead asserts that he actually won. As recently as Boxing Day he issued a series of tweets claiming without support that there was “massive election fraud” about which he has “absolute proof”, and that the 2020 election is the “biggest scam in our nation’s history.” Untold millions of people appear to accept, as an article of faith, that Trump is correct about this. Other untold millions of people, myself included, have no idea what he proof he thinks has.

Rather than concede the election, Trump (with the aid of numerous surrogates) have explored an increasingly bizarre series of potential maneuvers by which the election results might be overturned:

  • There were scores of state lawsuits, primarily in the six most closely fought states (AZ, GA, MI, NV, PA, and WI), alleging various election irregularities and asking for extraordinary remedies. In general they went nowhere. The most impactful of these suits was in Wisconsin, where ultimately the State Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision adverse to Trump’s interests, although even the minority was unclear about what remedy they would have granted.
  • Texas filed an original action against GA, MI, PA, and WI directly in the Supreme Court, asserting that those four states’ purported failures to conduct legally sound Presidential elections somehow created violations of the U.S. Constitution for which Texas had standing to sue. Seven SCOTUS justices agreed that the Court should not accept the case, on the grounds that “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.” The other two justices believed that it was mandatory on process grounds for SCOTUS to accept the case, but that in any event Texas was not entitled to any of the forms of relief that it sought. Perhaps the most troubling fact about this lawsuit is that many states (including some that don’t exist!) and a majority of Republican House members signed on to this lawsuit as amici.
  • There has been reporting that some key Trump advisors, including Michael Flynn (the recently-pardoned former National Security Advisor), recently met with Trump to advocate that he invoke martial law in order to re-run the election in certain states. In response the Army Secretary and Chief of Staff issued a joint statement saying “there is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.” Yes, but, we really needed to make that clear?!? Yikes.
  • And now today there is a new lawsuit, Gohmert v. Pence. In this suit a Republican Congressman claims that portions of the Electoral Count Act of 1887 are unconstitutional, and that the right way to read the 12th Amendment is that it gives the Vice-President “exclusive authority and sole discretion” to determine which among competing sets of electoral college votes for a state should count. Remember those theatrical exercises I mentioned above, where the Trump electors in states Biden won went ahead and convened on December 14th to symbolically cast their votes? Well, per Gohmert, that represents an alternate slate of electors that Pence has the authority to select, in lieu of the ones formally submitted by the state. Somebody should build a time machine and mention this legal theory to Al Gore (or John Breckenridge).

And, of course, we’re well into Trump pardon season. So far he’s pardoned Flynn, Manafort, Stone, Ivanka’s father-in-law (who had famously been prosecuted by Chris Christie), and three Republican Congressmen who had been convicted of various offenses. And we’ve still got three weeks to go! Fun times.