Robert Reich: How to stop Trump from stealing the election

Donald Trump will stop at nothing to retain his power

By Robert Reich
October 22, 2020 10:34AM (UTC)
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Robert Reich in “Saving Capitalism” (Netflix)

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Trump is likely to claim that mail-in ballots, made necessary by the pandemic, are rife with "fraud like you've never seen," as he alleged during his debate with Joe Biden — although it's been shown that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.

So we should expect him to dispute election results in any Republican-led state he loses by a small margin — such as Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin.

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The 12th Amendment to the Constitution provides that if state electors deadlock or neither candidate gets a majority of the votes in the Electoral College needed to win the presidency (now 270) — because, for example, Trump contests votes in several key states — the decision about who'll be president goes to the House, where each of the nation's 50 states gets one vote.

That means less-populous Republican-dominated states like Alaska (with one House member, who's a Republican) would have the same clout as large Democratic states like California (with 53 House members, 45 of whom are Democrats). 

So if the decision goes to the House, Trump has the advantage right now: 26 of state congressional delegations in the House are now controlled by Republicans, and 22 by Democrats (two — Pennsylvania and Michigan — are essentially tied).

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But he won't necessarily keep that advantage after the election. If the decision goes to the House, it would be made by lawmakers elected in November, who will be sworn in on January 3 — three days before they'll convene to decide the winner of the election.

Which is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is focusing on races that could tip the balance of state delegations — not just in Pennsylvania and Michigan but any others within reach. "It's sad we have to plan this way," she wrote recently, "but it's what we must do to ensure the election is not stolen."

The targets are Alaska (where replacing the one House member, now a Republican, with a Democrat, would result in a vote for Biden), Montana (ditto), Pennsylvania (now tied, so flipping one would be enough), Florida (now 14 Republicans and 13 Democrats, but 3 Republicans are retiring) and Michigan (where Republicans now have 6 members and Democrats 7). 

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Congress has decided contested elections only three times in U.S. history, in 1801, 1825, and 1877. But we might face another because Donald Trump will stop at nothing to retain his power.

That's why it's even more critical for you to vote. Make this a blowout victory for Joe Biden and Democrats down the ballot, and stop Trump from stealing this election.

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Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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