Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Dr. Jill Stein, the recent 2016 Green Party nominee for the office of President of the United States, proved that she was not yet done making herself known in the mainstream media’s twenty-four hour news cycle. After the farcical tragedy that was the 2016 Presidential election, she has called for a recount in three of the major swing states that Clinton lost by only a narrow majority. These states are Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which garner in the Electoral College a total of forty-six electoral votes. Wisconsin’s recount has already begun. This is important because if just these three states were to shift to Hillary Clinton by the December 19th meeting of the Electoral College, it would be enough to make her the President-Elect, if only by a very narrow margin. The Clinton campaign has endorsed the recount.
It is interesting to point out, however, as has been indicated here, that Clinton, the one who got beat, is not the one who initiated this recount. It was Dr. Stein. It is also important to make note of this fact again because if Dr. Stein were to get her way, per her own criticism of Clinton’s endorsement, there would also be recounts in the states that Clinton won by a narrow margin. This could make for an interesting situation. Clinton could turn the three aforementioned states, while, at the same time, other states could turn around to Donald Trump. So, if this recount were to go through, in force, she could still lose. Just to be clear, even though this could provide for some more fireworks in this election, if there is a broad recount at all, it will only be in a few key states, and it will, most likely, not change the results of this election.
Michigan and Pennsylvania, the other two states that Clinton would need to turn for a win, have not begun their recounts, Michigan still has yet to certify their election results from the 8th, and Pennsylvania’s recount rules are some of the strictest in the nation. Further, for these states, the political implications of a recount may not be something that their state governments are willing to deal with, and if so, there is nothing that any of the Presidential candidates can do to force them into a recount. This situation lies within the realm of the Tenth Amendment and the states’ rights to self-governance. The federal government itself cannot force a state to conduct a recount unless it wants to head into a massive court battle that would likely reach the Supreme Court, just as did the 2000 election. Only then, it was Florida that was in the limelight. This is a limelight that many state governments will run from as quickly as they possibly can.
There is an additional hurdle to the completion of a recount that could possibly turn the election Clinton’s way. Recount votes are monstrously expensive. It is expensive enough for a state to conduct the average Presidential election every four years, so conducting a subsequent recount can stretch the budget of a state’s Election Board to the limit. It’s not like election workers at that level will just work for free. The cost of the Wisconsin recount is already being estimated to be over half a million dollars, and that is just one state. Add Michigan, Pennsylvania, and any other state that gets caught up in the mix into the equation and the expense could quickly get out of hand. The astronomic cost of a recount is precisely what prevented Florida from conducting a full recount during the Bush-Gore election in 2000, despite hints that Gore wanted to ask them to do it anyway. The expense for Florida’s three most heavily populated counties alone, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach, would have cost the state in excess of two and half million dollars. Imagine what the total cost would have been for Florida with a population of nearly twenty million people, which makes it the fourth most populous state in the country. In 2000, Florida chose not go down that road. It is very possible that Michigan, and especially, Pennsylvania will make the same decision this time around.
The final roadblock to such a recount would be the subsequent court battle between the Clinton and Trump campaigns if a recount does turn the election. The 2000 election proved that such a court battle can take place, but it also proved that such a court battle could run the risk of disturbing the traditional peaceful transfer of power, though many think it to only be a show, that has become one of the bedrocks of the American political system. Gore was not willing to push that boundary in 2000, but Gore was also well steeped in the American political ethos. Donald Trump is not. He is the kind of person that would stretch the election past January 20th. He would be perfectly fine running the risk of shredding one of the last chords of credibility that this country has left in the world. From what one can garner about the man, from his own behavior, it is clear that his ego, combined with the thirst for power, could lead this election, and this country, into very dangerous waters.
What happens if on January 20th, 2017, the 2016 Presidential election has not yet been decided because it is still wrapped up in the courts? First of all, such a scenario has never occurred in the United States. Power has always been transferred on time and in a peaceful manner, the Civil War being the only case where that tradition was truly threatened, so there is no real precedent for such a possibility. Many people, and a great many of them are some of the smartest people in this country, cannot agree on what would happen next. Such debates have raged on and on for years. However, the general consensus is that one of three things could happen. In the event of a lock in the Presidential election, the person next in line for the office would become the Interim-President. This means that House Speaker Paul Ryan would become President. This admittedly, even though Paul Ryan is not the preferred choice for the office, is the most constitutionally sound option and the one most likely to keep the peace until the election is decided.
The next two options are just scary. These two options are, the sitting President, Barack Obama, declares martial and refuses to step down until a winner has been declared, if he steps down at all, or the United States goes into the next election cycle without a functioning Executive Branch. Of these two options, the first would be preferable, though it would still be a travesty, as it would be a final declaration to the American people and the world that this country’s electoral process was truly no longer functional. The second of these two options could lead to a complete political breakdown at the federal level. With no one to enforce the laws passed by Congress, or to approve them after passage for that matter, Congress would be helpless to stop any chaos that ensued, unless they too declared a state of martial law. The Supreme Court would just be powerless, as its depends on executive enforcement for its rulings to be of any worth. This breakdown would only role downhill, thus, affecting government entities at both the state and municipal levels.
Hopefully, none of the negative possibilities outlined here will actually happen. Hopefully, the American political system will adapt to its new conditions and wade the storm. Hopefully. What one can say with a measure of confidence is that the people that run this country, in the open or behind the scenes, can ill afford the kind of chaos that these possibilities would create. As such, it would be unheard of to think that they would let such craziness happen. So, don’t take this recount business too seriously.
What do you think? Do you like what is being said here? To check out more of Kent Allen Halliburton’s work, visit his politics and history blog. You will find yourself entranced at www.refusetocooperate3.blogspot.com.