Many on the left fear the President will use any means necessary to stay in power. An article in Slate, Trump Can’t Cancel the Election. But States Could Do It for Him. is typical of these type of concerns.
The truth, though, is that the President has no power to cancel the election. That power rests purly in the hands of the Congress.
Congress, not the president, has the power to move Election Day. And even if Congress did postpone the vote, the Constitution would terminate Trump’s term on Jan. 20, 2021.Stern, Mark Joseph. “Trump Can’t Cancel the Election. But States Could Do It for Him.” Slate 13 March 2020.
Further, having spend over a decade working for the U.S. Military, I can guarantee the loyalty of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are to the Republic, and not to any individual President. Should any President, Democrat or Republican, refuse to leave office were someone new duly appointed on, be it 20 January 2021, 20 January 2025, or any appropriate day of power transition in the future, then the U.S. Military would remove the obstinate President from office, with force, if necessary. Such a military Coup d’État would be unheard of in American history, but would doubtlessly just be a bump in the smooth transition of power as the Military is expected to immediately cede power to the duly elected next President. Indeed, if a President refuses to leave office, it behooves the winner of the most recent election to beseech the Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid in the removal of the incalcitrant, losing President, to make sure he or she leaves office and that the newly elected President is installed.
All that said, it seems to me insane to consider any President, including the current occupant of our highest office wouldn’t leave come 20 January upon losing the prior election by the Electoral College. And I hope my readers know I stand firmly on the side of Republican Democracy. It’s not a question of party for me, it’s a question of whoever wins the election should take office.
the Constitution does not require states to assign their electors on the basis of the statewide vote. It does not even require a statewide vote. Rather, it explains that each state “shall appoint” its electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” In other words, each state legislature gets to decide how electors are appointed—and, by extension, who gets their votes.Stern, Mark Joseph. “Trump Can’t Cancel the Election. But States Could Do It for Him.” Slate 13 March 2020.
The rub comes if states exercise their option, under Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 2—as amended—state legislatures are allowed to appoint electors by any means they see fit. They can vote to select electors, as some states did originally, not having the infrastructure to hold an election. They can hold an election and assign electors proportionally, as they did in the early in the Republic. They can have winner-take-all (plurality) elections. They can have direct election of electors, as Alabama did in 1960. They can even allow two electors to be chosen by state-wide Plurality and the rest chosen by potentially Gerrymandered Congressional District plurality, such as in Maine and Nebraska. The Constitution says nothing about how Electors are selected, it only says states legislatures get to chose their own method.
[The President] himself could not cancel the entire presidential election. But he could ask these GOP-dominated legislatures to cancel their statewide presidential elections and assign their electors to him. It’s doubtful that we will face this situation in November. But imagine a worst-case scenario: The election is approaching, and the coronavirus remains rampant in our communities. States are unsure whether they have the personnel and resources to hold an election. Congress has failed to mandate no-excuse absentee balloting, and many states have declined to implement it. Or the postal service is so hard hit that it cannot reliably carry ballots to and from voters’ residences. It’s not difficult to envision [The President]’s allies in state legislatures assigning their states’ electoral votes to the president, insisting that these dire circumstances justify pulling a constitutional fire alarm.Stern, Mark Joseph. “Trump Can’t Cancel the Election. But States Could Do It for Him.” Slate 13 March 2020.
What the article fails to mention is that each state’s legislature operates under different rules. In Maryland and Virginia, for instance, their General Assemblies have strict deadlines before 1 July to finish conducting all legislative business. The only way new legislation can be adopted is from a direct order of the Governor, meaning for a state to cancel its election after 1 July, it would have to do so with the consent of its Governor and its Legislature. And while there are a number of state legislatures in single-party hands through Gerrymandering, the Governors are elected by popular vote and thus is not prone to Gerrymandering.
So while SARS-CoV-2 may cause difficult for voting, it’s doubtful any major legislature is going to cancel the election in 2020 due to the virus. However, let’s entertain that possibility for a moment.
state legislatures can appoint electors—the human beings themselves—but cannot then require them to vote for a particular candidate, or punish them if they do not. It seems unlikely that the court will grant “faithless electors” the ability to buck state legislatures and cast rogue votes.Stern, Mark Joseph. “Trump Can’t Cancel the Election. But States Could Do It for Him.” Slate 13 March 2020.
Here is where the article puts a bit too much faith in faithless electors. The truth is, the way electors are chosen in all states in 2020 is through a party-line slate. What happens is the election happens (or the state legislature directs), the states Secretaries of State (where such office exists) then contact the party of the winning candidate who then provide the state with a slate of electors. If the Democrat wins, the state selects the slate of electors provided by the Democratic Party, if the Republican wins, the state selects the slate of electors provided by the Republican Party. It’s very unlikely parties would select from amongst their party faithful someone who was not loyal to the candidate. And sticking pipedream hopes that even if Faithless Electors are preserved—as the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to rule—it’s unlikely any elector will be voting against their party or candidate.
Regardless of any SCOTUS decision, Faithless Electors will continue to be rare. If a bunch of state legislatures do decide the cancel the election of 3 November, it’s unlikely that you can count of faithlessness to give you any surprise outcome. While that may be a fear in terms of legislatures reverting to the original party appointment of electors without election, which would be a tragedy to our Democratic Republic, there is another way that would, in fact, increase our Democratic Reublican ideals.
National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an agreement between the signatory state such that, if the combined electoral college count of signatory states is 270, then these states will tabulate their popular votes, and combine those popular votes with the votes of all the other states in our American Union, and, based on the winner nationally, the Secretaries of State then select the slate of electors provided by the party of the candidate who won the National Popular Vote. Effectively, the person with the most votes nationally will become the next President of the United States.
Just as legislatures could cancel elections, they can also join the NPVIC and ensure that the winner of the popular vote is the winner of the national election, making this nation a more Democratic Republic, not less.
This isn’t a partisan issue. In 2004, a Republican almost lost the Electoral College despite winning the Popular Vote. This isn’t an issue of the Popular Vote advantaging one party over the other. Unfortunately, 2016 has blinded people to that fact. In truth, when it’s known long before the election how most states will vote, it concentrates all the power in a number of battleground states which are so close one could literally flip a coin to determine their outcome. Such concentrated power is against the will of the Framers. It disadvantages both big and small states alike, both rural and urban states alike. It helps no-one unless you happen to live in a Battleground. It’s not advantaging any party, it’s just the coin flipped heads a number of times. It will flip tails. We don’t know when, but it will. It could indeed be as soon as 2020.
Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 2 is a double-edged sword. It allows legislatures to take the power from the people, and it also allows them to grant it to all Americans, leveling out the playing field so that, no matter where you live, your vote will count as much as any other American.
We should have One Person, One Vote where Every Vote is Equal. Ask your state governments to pass the NPVIC today.