A recent article in The Atlantic caused quite a stir in the Keystone State this week after they insinuated that Pennsylvania Republicans were preparing plans to short-sheet the popular vote on November 3rd and have the legislature install Trump electors in the event that the outcome in Pennsylvania is contested or significantly delayed. That report had plenty of tongues wagging with rumors of various bits of GOP skullduggery making the rounds. Eventually, the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader, Jake Corman, had to put out a public statement saying that this was all vaporware from liberals and that the election process was going to stagger along as best as it’s able under the circumstances. But what we’re seeing here is probably a microcosm of similar flaps that are going to be cropping up all over the place if the race is as tight as many observers expect. (Fox News)
Top Republicans in Pennsylvania are pushing back after a report by The Atlantic alleged that they are planning to potentially have the state legislature disregard the popular vote and appoint electors for the state in the case that election returns are disputed or delayed, saying the report took their comments out of context.
“What they wanted to do I guess is to get people excited and fire people up to fit their narrative that Trump’s trying to steal the election, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican, who was one people quoted by The Atlantic, said. “But there’s no role for the legislature in this process so how they got to this premise is beyond me other this is what they wanted to accomplish.”
The Atlantic story largely discusses President Trump, his comments on mail-in voting, potential litigation stemming from delays in counting mail-in ballots and predicts that Trump will not leave office if he loses the election — despite being asked repeatedly, Trump still has not unequivocally stated he will accept the result of the election.
What the piece from The Atlantic was suggesting (or perhaps rumormongering would be a better word) is not something that is allowable under the state constitution. Corman took to Twitter in an effort to make this clear.
I have had ZERO contact with the Trump campaign or others about how PA chooses electors. The PA process as outlined in the Election Code DOES NOT involve the legislature. pic.twitter.com/DI2vsO7Z1E
— Senator Jake Corman (@JakeCorman) September 25, 2020
If you read the article all the way through, it seems rather obvious what was happening here. The Atlantic, as is their usual practice, was looking for a salacious quote to generate some clicks and make the GOP look bad. Their reporter kept badgering the Republicans, asking if they might be able to find a way to appoint the electors themselves and “steal” the state’s electors on Trump’s behalf. Then they cherry-picked the answers that sounded most sensational. Also, the original interview actually took place all the way back in July, but it’s just being resurfaced now that we’re on the eve of the debates and the final stretch before election day.
The reality is that this election may well wind up being very messy in a number of closely contested states to begin with. When you add in the massive number of mail-in ballots, particularly in states like Pennsylvania where they can’t even begin certifying and counting them until very late in the process, the potential for some sort of worst-case scenario begins to grow. But if we get too close to the Safe Harbor date on December 8th and the counting is still going on, the final remedy will likely be found through the courts. They still have until December 18th to seat the electors, so the court could come up with a way to do that. (That’s how the 2000 election was finally settled on December 12th via Bush v. Gore.)
There are also additional safeguards and fallback plans in the Constitution that would be invoked no matter how all of this shakes out. If some of the states simply can’t finish and come up with a court resolution, it’s possible that neither candidate will wrangle 270 electors. If so, the election will get tossed to the House and the Senate. And if all else fails, we’ll have an Acting President and Acting Vice President in the persons of the Speaker of the House (yikes!) and the president pro tempore of the Senate. Fear not. One way or another we’ll have a resolution. And no matter who “wins” in those scenarios, there will probably be riots in the streets. But we’ve all pretty much grown used to that by now, haven’t we?