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.
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).
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).
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.
This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.
Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.