The nightmare scenario I predicted last week has officially come to pass!
The 2020 election looks to be contested. And if the president and his team follow through on their legal threats, perhaps as much as the Bush v. Gore fiasco in 2000.
But this time, it wasn’t Florida that caused the rift. That race was called on election night for President Trump.
No, this time there are cries of voting irregularities and even fraud in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.
It’s a different legal landscape than in 2000, when the post-election court fight was about a few hundred votes in one state. Today’s brouhaha is over tens of thousands of votes in multiple states!
And President Trump would need legal victories in most of them for any chance at closing the gap with Joe Biden, who was declared presumptive President-elect by the Associated Press, followed by major networks and other press organizations on Saturday.
Biden won’t become the official President-elect until certification by the states. Some of them won’t finish tallying up the votes until early December. Once the states officially certify votes, the electors chosen by states will hold a ceremonial vote in their individual states on Dec. 14.
Legal claims revolve around three issues:
Alleged barriers to observing the counting of mail-in ballots … alleged votes cast by the deceased … and alleged “backdated” ballots.
The biggest case is Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes.
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, suggests the strategy will initially focus on the treatment of poll observers in Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
In the past, observers from both parties were allowed to examine poll workers closely, often standing over their shoulders to examine signatures and postmarks. This year, some local election officials implemented social-distancing rules due to the pandemic … keeping observers farther away. In Philadelphia’s convention center, for example, some observers were kept behind a metal barrier 10 to 12 feet away from the vote counting.
A spokesman from the Philadelphia board of election said those barricades were eventually moved up to within six feet of the first line of workers … after a state appeals court judge ruled that poll watchers must be allowed to observe the vote-counting process more closely.
Republicans have also argued that some mail-in and absentee ballots shouldn’t be counted because voters were allowed to either correct technical problems with their ballots or submit provisional replacement ballots.
And at the Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Samuel Alito ordered that Pennsylvania counties separate mailed ballots received after polls closed at 8 p.m. EST. If those ballots are counted, they must be counted separately. (Both the Republican Party of Pennsylvania and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar couldn’t verify that all boards had been doing this up to that point.)
The order came as the Trump campaign and Republicans are pushing for courts to invalidate certain ballots they allege were improperly cast.
In Georgia, Republican Rep. Doug Collins would lead a recount in a state where Mr. Biden currently leads by 0.21%. State law allows a recount if the margin is 0.5% or less.
And the Trump campaign’s Arizona lawsuit, filed Saturday, alleges that a number of votes cast on Election Day were incorrectly rejected in Maricopa County, home of Phoenix and more than half the state’s residents.
Donald Trump is even planning to use obituaries of people who allegedly voted — but are actually dead — as evidence of more voter fraud.
Plus, COVID-19 has resulted in a record number of mail-in ballots.
In the best of circumstances, matching signatures on mail-in ballots to those on file with the state is not an easy task. Time-consuming challenges to the verification process will delay a final count … possibly for weeks.
Delayed election results could elicit a constitutional crisis that would shake this country to its foundations.
Disputed elections are stressful not just because of the lingering uncertainty, but because rarely used Constitutional provisions are tested.
Yes, a win is a win. But when the win is contested, delayed and viewed as illegitimate by the losing side, that’s not a comfortable scenario for investors.
We’re only beginning to see just how complicated and bitter this dispute can be … or the bizarre paths that may lie ahead.
We could see disputed electors … decisions in the courts … decisions in the House of Representatives …
… and maybe even a winner with a minority of the popular vote.
All at once.
So, hold onto your hats, my friends … this is going to be quite a ride!
All the best,
P.S. For stocks likely to outperform longer term — whatever the outcome — you’ll want to download the Weiss Ratings Election Report 2020. Get it free here.