Thursday, October 29, 2020

Will nine justices in black robes be ultimate electors? -- Oct. 29, 2020 column

By MARSHA MERCER

President Donald Trump beamed like a proud papa and Republicans cheered at Amy Coney Barrett’s swearing-in show on the White House lawn Monday night.

The president and Senate Republicans had successfully rushed Barrett through the confirmation process as an associate justice on the Supreme Court before the election.

In one fell swoop, they bolstered their standing with GOP voters and took out an insurance policy in the event a razor-thin presidential election prompts legal challenges.

Voters should know Trump has long sown distrust in the electoral process and has laid the groundwork to contest the results if Democrat Joe Biden wins.

As in 2016, Trump refuses to say he will accept the election result, repeatedly claiming the only way he can lose is if it is rigged or stolen.

On Sept. 23 Trump told reporters he wanted nine justices in place because they may need to decide the election. He has appointed three justices, cementing a 6 to 3 conservative advantage.

Armies of lawyers on both sides are suiting up for post-election battle.

Without evidence, Trump continues to insist mail-in voting is ripe for Democratic fraud. Trailing in the polls in several battleground states, he is unwilling to let election officials take the time necessary to count mail-in ballots.

Most states require ballots to be mailed by Election Day, but several allow days or weeks for the postal service to deliver them and election officials to tally the votes.

In Virginia, mail-in absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by noon Nov. 6. Voters who haven’t mailed their ballots can hand-deliver them to their polling place on Election Day. Virginia results will be certified Nov. 16.

On Election Night in some states, including Virginia, localities will report in-person Election Day results first. Since Trump voters are likely to vote in person and Democrats by mail, Trump could take an early lead but lose it when absentee and mail-in ballots are counted.

That’s why Trump’s insistence “Must have final total on November 3rd” is self-serving and just plain wrong.

“It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on Nov. 3rd, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Everyone wants election results as soon as possible, but we all need patience so the process works fairly.

A week before Election Day, more than 64 million Americans had already voted, with about half of the votes in the dozen or so competitive states that will decide who wins the Electoral College, The New York Times reported.

So how could the election come down to nine justices in black robes?

Many younger voters won’t remember 2000, the too-close-to-call presidential race in Florida and the recounts, lawsuits and intense scrutiny of “hanging chads” that followed.

Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide, but the Electoral College is what counts.

With Republican George W. Bush ahead in Florida by only 537 votes, the dispute went to the Supreme Court, where a 5 to 4 vote on Dec. 12 halted the Florida recounts, essentially delivering the state’s 25 electoral votes and victory to W. The five justices who ended the Florida recount were nominated by Republican presidents. Democrats cried foul.

Trump now hopes the court will smile on him. His campaign and the Republican party challenged ballot deadline extensions in several battleground states that were favored by Democrats because of coronavirus concerns.

Before Barrett joined the court, justices blocked a deadline extension in Wisconsin, where a federal judge had said mail-in ballots could be counted for six days after Election Day if they were postmarked by then. The justices said counting must end Election Day.

But the highest court Wednesday rejected GOP requests to overturn ballot extensions in two other key states, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where the extensions came from the state Supreme Court and state elections officials, respectively.

Barrett, whose first day on the job was Tuesday, had not had time to review the cases and did not participate.

Voters, the time for dilly-dallying is over. In Virginia, in-person absentee voting ends Oct. 31. You can still vote Tuesday. Just do it.

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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