On Thursday, as new batches of votes in key states brought Joe Biden closer to winning the presidential election, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin issued a call to (legislative) arms:
Among the 20.7k (and counting) retweets: Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, who is a leading campaign surrogate.
With Pennsylvania on the verge of flipping into the Democratic column (the remaining uncounted ballots appear to heavily favor Biden), Levin was promoting a legal theory that drew some attention before the election. Because state governments have to formally certify results and then formally send electors to the Electoral College, the Republicans who control the state legislatures of Pennsylvania and several other swing states could (in this theory) simply send their own set of rival electors and force Congress to choose—potentially tipping the election to Trump. The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman reported earlier this fall that Republicans in the state had approached the Trump campaign about such a strategy.
As the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent has noted, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of such a strategy, from a constitutional and legal perspective, to say nothing of a public-relations one. Changing the process by which Pennsylvania appoints its electors requires changing Pennsylvania law, which the Democratic governor would veto. If Biden goes on to win enough of the remaining uncalled states, perhaps his sizable Electoral College and popular vote lead will dissuade Republicans from attempting to deploy such chicanery. And Pennsylvania’s Republican state Senate majority leader reportedly wants nothing to do with it:
For anyone wondering: spokesperson for Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman reiterated just now that the Republican controlled state legislature will NOT move to appoint electors to override popular vote, despite concerns about PA electoral process.
— Ryan W Briggs (@rw_briggs) November 5, 2020
But the thing about going into untrodden territory is that no one really knows what it’s like; the only sure thing is that it’s not where you want to be.
Even President Trump hasn’t gone this far yet. But his son’s promotion of such a plan is an ominous development as the campaign seeks to claw its way back by taking away people’s votes.