This column was co-written with former Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.
It is unclear why Donald Trump is claiming he will win another term as President of the United States. What is crystal clear is that he has zero chance of being re-elected. It is all a matter of simple math. It would be nigh unto impossible for Trump to flip any one of the critical states. To win, he would have to flip more than one state.
Trump has variously identified Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan as states that could go his way. As of November 14, Joe Biden led in all of those states by virtually unflippable margins: Pennsylvania—53,139 votes; Georgia--14,057 votes; Arizona—11,635 votes; Nevada--36,870 votes; Wisconsin--20,540 votes; and Michigan--146,123 votes.
Trump is certainly entitled to seek a recount under the rules of any of those states and, in fact, a hand recount has been ordered in Georgia. However, the outcome in each of those states is extremely unlikely to change in an election recount.
The two of us have had experience in recounts in Idaho for a number of years. The Attorney General’s office oversees a recount with the assistance of the Secretary of State’s office. Our experience is that only a handful of votes will change in a recount. The vote margins in each of the states identified by Trump are simply too large to flip (although there are still some votes to count in Arizona and the margin there might shrink some more).
Neither is litigation likely to cause a change in the outcome of any of the six states. There would have to be competent evidence presented to a court to disqualify enough votes to change the state outcome. Thus far, no such evidence has been identified by the Trump forces. Rather, a survey of state election officials indicates that the election was properly conducted across the country and virtually free of problems or legitimate concerns. As a nation, we should thank the election officials and workers who carried out such a monumental undertaking under risky circumstances.
Assume for the sake of argument that irregularities of great magnitude could be proven in one of the states. That would not change the outcome of the election. There would have to be convincing evidence of substantial irregularities in other states in order to change the election outcome. That is because Biden has several routes to the presidency.
Say that 50,000 or so votes in Pennsylvania could be disqualified by convincing evidence in court proceedings, Biden would still have enough Electoral College votes to win. It could be a combination of any two of Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. Trump would have to disqualify sufficient votes in at least one more state in order to change the election outcome. This is not a case like Bush v. Gore 20 years ago where the winner of the race was decided on an extremely close vote in just one state.
In light of the impossibility of proving irregularities sufficient to flip the election, Trump should accept the time-honored tradition of transitioning the government to the winning candidate. Instead of pouting and fuming in the White House, Trump should be trying to address critical problems in the country, like doing something, anything, to try to tamp down the Covid-19 pandemic, which has spun out of control on his watch.
Our adversaries are watching the dysfunction of our government and may well be tempted to take advantage. The winning team has expressed a desire to come together for the well-being of the country and it is time for the losing team to get on board. Meritless election posturing only hurts the country.
Jim Jones served as Idaho Attorney General from 1983 to 1991. Ben Ysursa served as Idaho Secretary of State from 2003 to 2015. He previously served as Chief Deputy in the office from 1976 to 2003.