Update: The House May Choose The President This Year

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Editor’s Note: This opinion has been updated from the original work which ran on September 16th

If you’re looking for a reason to vote for the Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in November, here’s one.  “In the event that neither President Donald Trump nor Joe Biden wins an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College this November, the race will be handled with a constitutional procedure called a contingent election, which will send the contest to the House of Representatives for a final decision.”

That’s from Alexandra DeSanctis’ National Review article of September 9th.  This year, for any number of reasons, the United States may not have a clear national election result for days, even weeks.  Because of COVID, many more mail-in ballots will be cast this year.  Republicans fear that, in battleground states with Democrat governors (like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota), many ballots will be mailed to voters who have moved or died.  Activists can then scoop up these ballots, fill them out and send them in. Even the best-intentioned local and state officials will be under pressure to certify the election results quickly.  (Especially if Antifa riots, to add to the pressure).  As a result, it’s possible that many fraudulent ballots will get counted.  Moreover, many ballots will undoubtedly be challenged.  “We may well endure a post-election Hell of endless ballot judging and counting not just in one state (Florida in 2000), but potentially a dozen,” warns John Hinderaker of the Powerline blog,”  “The number of questionable ballots will be immense. It is quite possible that once again, the Supreme Court will be called on to sort out legal arguments–this time, likely in multiple states–so as to determine the winner.” Michael Barone, one of America’s foremost political analysts, says that the “possibilities for fraud, misinformation, lawsuits, and delays are manifold.”

The state electors who vote for President and Vice President will cast their votes in their respective state capitals on “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the general election,” says the National Archives. This year, that’s December 14th.  We could still be counting and litigating ballots at that time.  As a result, some states may not be able to certify their electoral votes by January 6th, when a joint session of the House and Senate counts the votes. Congressmen or Senators can also challenge a state’s certification of its electoral votes. “This is an appalling scenario,” writes Hinderaker, “but not an unlikely one.”

If we, as a nation, are unable to agree that one presidential candidate got a majority of Electoral College votes, the House of Representatives will choose the president.  Each state delegation gets one vote.  The first candidate to get 26 state delegations to vote for him becomes (or stays) president.

So, when you vote for your member of the House of Representatives this November, you really could be choosing someone whose vote will determine who wins the White House. For anyone who thinks that House races are insignificant—NOT THIS YEAR!!!  The most important thing your new Representative could do in the next Congress, is vote for president this coming January.

If you want Donald Trump to be president, do you want to run the risk that the election will be decided in the House of Representatives?  I don’t.  No matter how moderate Ann Kirkpatrick or Tom O’Halloran might be, it isn’t conceivable that they would vote for Donald Trump—ESPECIALLY if their vote would swing the Arizona delegation to Trump.  Arizonans could vote overwhelmingly for Trump in the general election.  But, if the election goes to the House, and a majority of Arizona’s House members are Democrats, then be prepared for Arizona to vote for Joe Biden.  As of now, Arizona has 5 Democrat and 4 Republican members of the House of Representatives.

You may never have heard of Tiffany Shedd (1st Congressional District), Brandon Martin (2nd District) or Daniel Wood (3rd District).  You may know them, but not like them.  But, what is more important—two years of a Congressional candidate you don’t like, or four years of a Biden/Harris presidency?

In the fall of 2019, Britain held a national election.  The overriding issue was “Brexit”—the U.K.’s attempt to leave the European Union.  Thousands of longtime voters for the Labour Party (which opposed Brexit) voted for candidates for the Conservative Party (which supported it).  The Conservatives won in a landslide.  After the election, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party, openly thanked those Labour voters.  Moreover, he acknowledged that many of those voters might never vote Conservative again, because they didn’t agree with many Conservative policies.  Johnson’s point was that, at least for this election, there was a bigger issue at hand.  He thanked the Labour voters for recognizing that.

In November, we have a bigger issue at hand.  Normally a House member casts one vote out of 435—the total size of the House of Representatives.  This year, an Arizona House member could be casting one vote out of nine—the nine votes of the Arizona congressional delegation, which would determine which presidential candidate Arizona chooses.

Vote appropriately this November.  Now is not the time to take chances.

Update:  Many states are reporting spikes in new COVID cases, and some of those states are battleground states—-Wisconsin and Ohio, for example.  How could this affect the election?  Fewer people might go to the polls, because they’re scared of getting sick.  After the election, when votes are being counted and verified—and challenged—many states may find it hard to get enough volunteers to help with the count and verification.  Also, some states might claim they can’t fully verify their ballots, because COVID makes it unsafe to gather large numbers of volunteers.  Therefore, in order to meet the December deadline for states to ratify their Electoral College votes, some states may conduct a rushed or skimpy screening process—which could allow illegally-cast ballots to slip through.  Other states might say they can’t get everything done by the deadline.  All of this increases the possibility that the House of Representatives might have to pick the president.





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Donald Smith wrote the “Fort Buckley” blog on TucsonCitizen.com from 2011 to 2012. He lives in Tucson.