Edward B. Foley


This Article considers the possibility that a major dispute over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election could arise, even without foreign interference or some other extraordinary event, but rather just from the ordinary process of counting ballots. Building upon previous research on the “blue shift” phenomenon, whereby adjustments in vote tallies during the canvassing of returns tends to advantage Democratic candidates, it is easy to imagine a dispute arising if this kind of “blue shift” were consequential in the presidential race. Using examples from both Pennsylvania and Arizona, two states susceptible to significant “blue shifts” in previous elections, the article shows how the dispute could reach Congress, where it potentially might metastasize into a full-fledged constitutional crisis. The most frightening scenario is where the dispute remains unresolved on January 20, 2021, the date for the inauguration of the new presidential term, and the military is uncertain as to who is entitled to receive the nuclear codes as commander-in-chief. In order to avoid this risk, Congress should amend the relevant statute, 3 U.S.C. § 15.

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