American politics are about to become extremely dangerous
More than 80 million Americans are expected to cast mail-in ballots this fall, representing a 16-fold increase over mail-in ballots in the 2016 election.
This is probably going to cause a constitutional crisis of epic proportions.
The problem isn't the possibility of fraud that President Donald Trump has been going on about. Cases of possible double voting or voting on behalf of dead people, Daley-machine-style, are statistically insignificant, amounting to at most 0.0025% of mail-in votes.
The real issue is that the ballots may not be counted on time, triggering the insanity of the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The date to remember is Dec. 14, when the delegations of the Electoral College meet in their respective states. That's a hard deadline. Each delegation can only certify their state's vote counts if they are 100% complete -- machine votes cast in person at polling places on Election Day, early votes, absentee ballots, write-ins and, this year, COVID-19 mail-in ballots. If the state fails to certify on time, its Electoral College votes aren't counted.
Within each state, there is a canvassing/certification deadline for county officials to submit their results. Most are in late November. California, with a Dec. 11 deadline, cuts it close and usually files its national certification last.
State election officials are doing their best to meet the challenge. They are hiring additional staff, buying new tabulation machines and installing drop boxes. Even assuming that they will be able to hire the additional personnel they need in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the practical impediments to meeting the Dec. 14 deadline are daunting. Mail-in ballots are manually opened, and signatures must be visually compared, sometimes several times, to Board of Election records.
Then there are technicalities. For example, 16 states require mail-in ballots to be submitted with an extra "privacy envelope." In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, 6.4% of absentee ballots submitted in a 2019 election were rejected because voters neglected to insert their ballot inside the privacy envelope -- a significant margin that could change the outcome on a national level. Both parties are gearing up for legal challenges about issues like this across the nation.
"Every absentee or mailed ballot, even if dropped off directly at the designated county drop box or polling center, most likely will not get counted on Election Day, and it can easily be challenged and delayed and even rejected on a technicality," Jed Shugerman writes at Time. "Every mailed or absentee ballot, in an envelope with signatures, is its own hanging chad, its own built-in legal delay."
If enough states are embroiled in vote-counting controversies to prevent either President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden from achieving the 270 electoral votes required to declare them president-elect on Dec. 14, the obscure 12th Amendment kicks in.