11 Nov 2020 18:35 IST

How Trump came to lose a closely fought election

Trump has not yet conceded to Joe Biden contending that fraud occurred during counting of votes

The coalition that helped elect Joe Biden as America's 46th president was broad and deeply committed. Very few people voted for Biden; they all voted against Trump.

For four years, the liberal media, academia, Big Tech, pollsters, Washington-Beltway insiders, and the entertainment industry did everything to weaken Trump, keeping Election Day 2020 in mind. Their assault on Trump was merciless and relentless.

For nearly two years, they charged that Trump colluded with the Russians in 2016 and investigated him. All charges were found baseless. They impeached Trump, accusing him of corruption when he called the Ukrainian leader about requesting them to investigate Hunter Biden, Joe's son. Trump was absolved in the Senate, and recent reports show that Hunter's dealings in Ukraine and China were shady.

The Left then pummelled Trump's handling of Covid and its economic fallout on a 24/7 basis. They ridiculed Trump's repeated announcements that a vaccine would be available before the end of the year. (Pfizer announced this week that a vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing infection).

Meanwhile, the Left went easy on Biden, ignoring his negative stories and making him out to be a wise statesman who will save America's soul. Major media outlets predicted a 10-point Biden win nationally and in some states, like Wisconsin, by 17 points, on the Sunday before election day.

The election was a lot closer. For someone so vilified and hated, Trump won a whopping 71 million votes, the most for any sitting president in history. It took the networks four agonising days to call the race for Biden, whose margin of victory was only three per cent. In Wisconsin, Biden squeaked by with just a 0.7 per cent lead, similar to Georgia (0.5 per cent) and Pennsylvania (1 per cent).

More than all of the Left's attacks on Trump, Biden's victory results from the Left's quiet, behind-the-scenes actions to hastily change election rules to implement universal mail-in ballot processes in key battleground states, with extremely relaxed rules for election security.

America's unique electoral system

Unlike most other democracies, America doesn't have a centralised Election Commission to conduct elections. A country that strongly hews to the idea of state rights, America depends upon the 50 states to run every aspect of a federal election.

America is also the only country that adheres to the electoral college. The winner of the popular vote in the entire nation is meaningless. The winner has to win the popular vote in each state, racking up electoral votes fixed for each state based on population. 270 votes are needed to win.

On a practical level, this situation can lead to anarchy when elections are close. Going into Election day this year, the 150 million American votes cast fell into three buckets — early votes, mail-in ballots, and Election Day ballots. Biden led in the first two buckets. Trump dominated the third.

In-person early voting and election day voting systems in America are secure and world-class. After voters authenticate themselves via a photo-ID that matches their name and address with voter rolls, they are directed to an EVM. When the vote is cast, the EVM prints out a paper copy that the voter takes to a separate computer system where the paper copy is scanned. If the primary EVM system fails for whatever reason, the backup system still has the vote electronically captured. If the backup system fails too, election officials can always retrieve the paper copy, securely stored.

Even when ballots are mailed in, issues are rare because they form a minimal number of total votes cast, and they generally don't tip an election's outcome. All states have some form of a vote-by-mail feature called absentee balloting when voters can request that a ballot be mailed to them at a vacation home or in the hospital because they cannot physically go to the election booth. Most American expats and those in military service vote absentee.

Like Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, some states vote only by mail after they made in-person voting obsolete. These states are large in size relative to their voting populations, and operating polling stations in sparsely populated rural areas was obviously inefficient and ineffective. To compensate, these states have invested in state-of-the-art equipment and staff training to process all ballots by mail. One thing that they do well is keeping voter rolls well updated by linking with other government agencies. When a voter dies, the county recording the death will automatically send an update to the state's Secretary of State to delete the voter from the rolls.

The Left's strategy to change voting rules

When Covid hit America, the Left pushed vote-only-by-mail processes in numerous states with no experience with universal mail-in balloting and in regions with high population densities where in-person voting is efficient. The Left argued that all voters should vote from home to keep voters safe.





In state legislatures that they controlled (like New Jersey), the Left had the laws changed to send ballots to every registered voter. In Nevada, the law was changed just 80 days before the election.

In states where the Left had no legislative control (Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin), they filed over 145 lawsuits alleging that Covid shutdowns would disproportionately disenfranchise minorities and other communities of colour. The list of remedies they sought were relaxed rules to accept late mail-in ballots and eliminate rules to verify ballot signatures against voter rolls.

When vote counting started, these moves collectively tipped the balance towards Biden.

Trump's legal challenges

Trump has not yet conceded to Biden, contending that fraud occurred during the counting of votes after election day, largely to include universal mail-in-ballots.




Other Republicans agree. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul tweeted, "Your government sent 1.1 million dead people stimulus checks. Wonder how many of these folks also voted absentee?"

Trump's campaign has filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, arguing that poll watchers could not inspect mail-in ballots for date mailed or signature. On election night, he was 700,000 votes ahead of Biden. But over the next four days, Biden not only erased this lead but went up sufficiently enough to be outside of the automatic recount threshold.

Other lawsuits in Michigan and Nevada are underway. Republican officials have announced separate hearings to investigate claims of fraud. Politico reported that a coalition of Republican attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the justices to resolve a dispute from Pennsylvania over a ruling that the state's Supreme Court issued in September, granting three extra days for the receipt of mail-in ballots cast in last Tuesday's election.

The electors of each state are required to certify the winner only by December 14, by which time, the fate of some of these legal challenges will become known. The consensus is that each state's overvotes are insufficient to reverse Biden's election, so Trump faces an uphill battle and will likely concede before the electoral college meets, but not before he has made it clear to his supporters that he fought a good fight.

From the time Trump first descended his elevator in 2015, it has always been drama and theatrics that have defined him. It is fitting that drama envelops him as he prepares to leave the White House.