What is Electoral Count Act of 1887? The little-known Act could give Donald Trump 4 more years, even if he loses
As the November 3 election approaches, people are anxious about what might happen. Many people, including President Donald Trump, are skeptical about the mail-in voting results and a lot of the citizens are worried about the ultimate election result and whether there will be a clear winner.
Trump hasn’t committed to a peaceful transition if he loses, that also led to some people wondering if he can do that. A report in The Atlantic alleges that Trump’s state and national legal teams are working towards for post-election strategies that would sidestep the results of the vote count in battleground states. According to the report, ambiguities in the Constitution and logical statement in the Electoral Count Act may make it possible to prolong the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to an edge.
That brings us to look back at the Electoral Count Act passed in 1887 to prevent a repetition of the farce of 1876.
What is the Electoral Count Act?
The Electoral Count Act or the Electoral Count Act of 1887 is a US federal law stating procedures for the counting of electoral votes by Congress following a presidential election. It was enacted in the aftermath of the disputed 1876 presidential election between Rutherford B Hayes and Samuel J Tilden. In that election, several states submitted competing slates of electors and a divided Congress was unable to resolve the deadlock.
In a September 9 article in The Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere explained that “the law requires electors to be chosen for the Electoral College, the constitutionally established body that elects the president, in no more than 41 days after Election Day.” The report states that there might be “massive delays” in vote counting due to a number of factors — because of late-arriving absentee ballots, disagreements over which of those ballots are valid, among other possible reasons — and this could mean that the country misses that date without clear results in every state.
The report states, if the act is simply put, whoever is ahead on December 14 gets the electors and, with them, the presidency. As per The Atlantic, analysts believe that Trump might be ahead during the early vote-counting. Trump, on various occasions, has made it clear that he’s going to say mail-in voting is “rigged,” and that he will allege conspiracies if he is behind: “I think I did win the popular vote, in a true sense,” he told Laura Ingraham on Fox News, about the 2016 elections. “I think there was tremendous cheating.”
“I used to think of this as the death asteroid that would hit planet Earth: very small chance of this happening, but if it did happen, it would be really, really bad,” Ned Foley, an expert on the Electoral Count Act who is the director of election law at Ohio State University, told Dovere. “Normally the asteroids miss planet Earth. Apparently, we’ve got an asteroid heading our way for the night of November 2, which I hope is not a bad omen.”
The report further explains that in 2016, when Wisconsin held its recount, the new numbers were in by 34 days after the election — “well within the Electoral Count Act limit, and even within what’s called the 35-day 'safe harbor' provision of the act,” which basically means that Congress has to accept whatever electoral vote count that the state reports as long as it finishes counting within 35 days. However, the 2016 elections weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, and due to the uncertainties that we face now, it may slow things down.