By Art Gallagher
Governor Murphy’s election rules have the real potential to make him and New Jersey the laughing stock of the nation and cause constitutional chaos. It is very possible that Jersey ballots will not be tabulated before the Electoral College meets on December 14 or when the President is to be inaugurated on January 20.
House races in districts 2,3,5, 7 and 11 could still be undecided when the House of Representatives is scheduled to be sworn in on January 3.
New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes won’t matter if President Trump or former Vice President Biden get 270 electoral votes without NJ’s 14. That scenario would avoid one a constitutional crisis, but the Murphy/Jersey jokes would write themselves.
If neither Trump nor Biden have 270 electoral votes and New Jersey is still counting on January 20 OR the partisan balance of the House of Representatives is undecided on January 3 when Congress is sworn in while NJ is still counting, there will be real constitutional chaos.
What happens if the balance of power in the House depends on New Jersey’s uncounted votes? Chris Smith, a distinguished Congressman who is highly respected on both sides could probably get enough crossover Democrat votes to get to 218 and become Speaker before NJ is finished counting.
If that happens, and neither Biden or Trump have 270 electoral votes on January 20, Smith would become acting President. I’d have my shot at sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom or at least attending an indoor State Dinner.
It took more than a month for New Jersey election officials to count and certify the 1.47 million paper ballots cast in the July 7 primaries. 3,957,303 votes were cast in NJ in 2016 general election. This year will probably top 4,000,000 votes with paper ballots counted by hand and scanner. What could go wrong with Murphy’s Law?
The congressional races in districts 2, 3, and 7 are expected to be close. Upsets could happen in 5 and 11. The partisan balance of the House of Representatives could depend on the outcomes of those races.
Murphy is likely betting that mailing paper ballots to all eligible voters gives an edge to Democrat candidates for Congress. Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t.
If a Republican wins in 2,3,5,7 or 11, and the partisan balance of the House of Representatives is not determined or tilts Republican, Murphy and Nancy Pelosi will probably blame the post office and President Trump, but Chris Smith could still be Speaker and/or acting President.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 provides that if there is no President-elect or Vice President-elect on January 20, the Speaker of the House becomes acting President. But what if there is no Speaker of the House? The Murphy’s Law jokes will write themselves and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate will become acting POTUS.
You can now go to the movies, an indoor water park, or that indoor ski slope at that disaster they built at the Meadowlands but going to vote in person is too dangerous.— Tony Fiore (@tfiore07) September 1, 2020
Murphy’s decision to moth ball New Jersey’s electronic voting machines in favor of an all paper ballot election where voters can mail in their ballots, deliver them to an allegedly secure drop box or fill out a provisional ballot at a polling place is obviously based on political calculus and not public health. If we can stand on line for hours at MVC locations without spiking the COVID curve, we can vote by machine at our traditional polling locations without spiking the COVID curve.
Murphy still has time to avoid constitutional chaos and national humiliation. He has a history of reversing course, as NJ restaurants know too well. I am hoping Murphy is too stubborn to allow in person voting on electronic machines and that Chris Smith becomes acting President.