One of the many ways in which President Donald Trump's critics fear he could try to steal the election on November 3 is by claiming victory prematurely before all the votes are counted in key swing states. And journalist Mark Sullivan, in an article for Fast Company, explains why he fears that Trump will use Facebook to claim victory even when the presidential election's outcome remains uncertain.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that during the week prior to the election, it will not accept any new political ads because there won't be enough time left to check them for accuracy. But beginning at 12:01 a.m. eastern time on Election Night — that is, right after November 3 turns to November 4 in major East Coast cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, Miami, Philadelphia and Boston — it will allow new political ads again, Sullivan notes. And in some of those new ads, the journalist warns, Trump could make a premature claim of victory.
For example, let's say that the race is close in Pennsylvania and Florida — two key swing states — and Trump is ahead in the vote count in those states. Trump might prematurely declare victory in Pennsylvania even though many votes in Democrat-dominated Philadelphia and its suburbs have yet to be counted. Or in Florida, Trump might prematurely declare victory before all of the votes in Miami-Dade County have been counted.
Sullivan explains, "12:01 a.m. on November 4 could mark the outset of an extremely sensitive and crucial period when election officials take a week or longer to process and tabulate the mail-in ballots used by millions of voters this year. Election integrity experts have said that the in-person votes will be counted first in many jurisdictions, and that because higher numbers of his base will likely vote in-person, Trump may appear to hold a lead on Election Night. That could change over the coming weeks as mail-in ballots are tabulated."
If Trump prematurely declared victory in Pennsylvania or Florida and it turned out that former Vice President Joe Biden won those states, it's hard to imagine Trump and his MAGA base admitting the president was wrong.
"If the Trump campaign uses a mass media channel like Facebook to declare victory in the early hours of November 4," Sullivan notes, "it could send the GOP base into a frenzy of euphoria — and it may go on believing Trump won even after the official ballot count later reveals Biden to be the president-elect. Trump might then declare the election 'rigged' — like he did in 2016, even after winning! — and refuse to leave the White House. The nation would find itself in the teeth of a constitutional crisis."