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Elections in the USA: What Happens the Day After?

From an easy victory for Biden to a surprise re-election of Trump through lengthy legal litigation or an outbreak of violence

A winner and a loser must come out of every election, so the same can be expected of the elections on November 3 in the United States. However, the road to knowing who will be the tenant of the White House in the next four years, Donald Trump or Joe Biden, could be much more bumpy this time.

Although a priori only two possible scenarios can be expected once the polls close, a victory for the current president or the election of the Democratic candidate, the truth is that in these presidential elections all the ingredients are given so that the achievement of one of these two results are prolonged in time or even for a third way to emerge.

If the prognoses and what the polls predict are true, Biden should be the one to take the lead. The easiest scenario would be for the Democrat to obtain the 270 Electoral College delegates he needs quickly, without the need for the results of all the states to be known, particularly those that are more closely contested, the so-called ‘swing states’.

In such a circumstance, Trump would a priori have no choice but to acknowledge his defeat and call Biden to congratulate him, as all losers have done throughout the country’s history before the victor publicly proclaimed his victory. However, the character of the current president makes one fear that what should be an automatic gesture in his case will not arrive as quickly as expected.

Its admission of defeat could take even longer to arrive if, as feared, the outcome in some key states is delayed or not as clear-cut as might be expected. The high number of postal and early voters that there has been will surely contribute to this in these elections. Almost 100 million have voted in advance, a figure that represents 72.3 percent of those who voted in 2016.

In general, it is assumed that many of the millions of Americans who have already cast their vote have supported Biden. The problem with these millions of votes lies in the fact that in many states they cannot start their counting until the same election day and in others the vote by mail is allowed until several days after November 3.

Thus, it is possible that although in some states in the first hours the color displayed is Republican red, there will be a shift to Democratic blue as mail and advance votes begin to be counted. .

Likewise, the result could take a few days, which, if neither candidate has already obtained the necessary majority in the Electoral College, would leave the final result in limbo. “The election should end on November 3, not weeks later,” Trump wrote a few days ago on his Twitter.

Precisely, the possibility of adjusted results in some states, as happened in 2000 in Florida, and Trump’s statements calling into question voting by mail and raising possible fraud, raise fears that the Republican will launch a legal battle to challenge the The result of the ballot box being thrown out for weeks or even months.

In this case, the problem is that the US Constitution clearly stipulates that the president’s term begins on January 20. But for this to be possible, a series of previous steps must be followed. According to the legislation, the states must have resolved any eventual controversy or problem with the result before December 8, since the Electoral College will meet on December 14 – actually the delegates do in each state – to issue their vote.

In the 2000 elections, the term was not exhausted and the Supreme Court gave the victory to George W. Bush by 537 votes over Al Gore in Florida and with it the majority in the Electoral College before the scheduled date. But what if there is still some pending litigation in some state?

In the past, there have been cases where a state has sent two different votes to be counted in the joint session of Congress on January 6. In general, this happens when the state legislature is dominated by one party and the governor belongs to the other. To avoid this dichotomy, there is a law that provides that if the House of Representatives and the Senate cannot agree on which vote is the legitimate one, then the one that will prevail will be the one sent by the governor.

Thus, if a situation such as the one described occurs and all the votes have been cast by the different states, on January 6 they would proceed to count them, with the official announcement of the winner by the vice president, Mike Pence, in his capacity as president of the Senate.

But while US law seems to take into account all possible scenarios, it does not have an unpredictable variable: Trump. Once the president’s trajectory is known, there have been several voices that have warned of the probability that the president will not publicly accept his defeat and refuse to pass the baton to Biden, plunging the United States into untransmitted territory.

Trump himself has been elusive when asked whether he will acknowledge the result. In fact, in his speech to the Republican Convention at the end of August, he said: “The only way these elections can be taken from us is if they are fraudulent.”

The behavior of the president after election night, the message he sends out to his followers, will also depend on whether or not another danger that is hovering over the United States will materialize in these elections: the real probability of an outbreak of political violence.

In these four years, Trump has contributed through tweets, his criticisms of the press and incendiary messages, to sow a polarization that some experts argue that the country had not lived since the 1960s, in full demand of civil rights .

The pandemic, with its consequent restrictions and some protests by those who question the danger of the “Chinese virus” as Trump has baptized it, have been joined by massive demonstrations throughout the country around the Black Lives Matter movement. This has provided optimal conditions for numerous far-right movements and groups, and even armed militias, to gain momentum, sometimes encouraged by the president himself.

Thus, following Trump’s invitation to “monitor” Election Day and given that the possession of weapons is allowed in many states in polling stations, it is feared that there may be instances of voter intimidation. But the main fear is that, if the result is not clear or Trump does not acknowledge his defeat, some of these groups may take to the streets and unleash violence, something never seen in the history of the country.

But there is also another possible scenario: the reelection of Trump. The magnate turned politician already struck the bell in 2016 against all odds and snatched a victory that Democrat Hillary Clinton already practically caressed with her fingers.

Then, the polls gave the former Secretary of State less advantage than Biden now has, although it should be remembered that he ended up winning the popular vote and if Trump is president it was because he achieved the magic figure of 270 votes in the Electoral College.

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