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Posts published in “Day: November 12, 2020”

Ben and Jim say Trump won’t win


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.

Fix it


When one of my old trucks start to fail, I always have to decide, is it worth fixing? Sometimes it is; sometimes it just ought to be junked. I tend to be a fixer, but I have junked one. The rust won. It was the right thing to do.

We are about there with the ACA. President-elect Biden campaigned on fixing it, not buying a brand-new model (Medicare for all). Trump campaigned on everybody having the kind of insurance and treatment he got for his Covid infection. Oops, he never said that. Actually, there has been little proposed on health care from the National Republican Party, except: “Repeal Obamacare!”

Tuesday, November 10th, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about junking the ACA. Some states and the Federal Government want it declared unconstitutional. Some states are defending it.

The arguments are long and complicated, and the path to this situation has been tortuous. The ACA passed congress without a single Republican vote. It was upheld by SCOTUS as constitutional (5-4) at the first lawsuit in 2012. The individual mandate was called a “tax”, thus within congresses power to levy.

Then, after Trump got elected and the Republicans had control of the Senate and the House they tried to pass a replacement, but couldn’t. Instead they zeroed out the individual mandate “tax”. This gave room for states to sue that the law was now unconstitutional. Since the Trump administration supports the repeal it couldn’t get done in congress, they have joined the states in the lawsuit. The Federal Government is asking the court to repeal a law it couldn’t do through legislation. Isn’t this the kind of thing “originalists” don’t want from court decisions?

I’m on the fence with this one. It’s like both the transmission and engine are bad, but I can’t afford a brand new one.

The ACA tried to work within our current health care insurance model. It tried to make companies offer comparable plans, establish a floor for minimum coverage, not exclude people for preexisting conditions, get young people enrolled on their parents plans and a thousand other things. But each of these market manipulations required attention. If the individual marketplaces (exchanges) weren’t working right, they needed tweaking. If the costs of policies rose to be unaffordable, the supports to the insurance providers needed to increase. And for over ten years now there has been no attention to maintenance. No point putting in a new engine if you don’t plan to change the oil.

All these complicated rules, and more: the plan as originally passed was supposed to be cost neutral. But since it’s passage, most of the tax increases (medical device, Cadillac plans) that helped pay for the savings have been repealed.

If we had a functioning congress, one where both parties accepted that this is a problem to solve, not use for political gain, there might be hope. I thought when Romney got the Republican nomination he would change the conversation, since the model for the ACA is based on the program he got passed in Massachusetts when he was governor. But no, he couldn’t talk about healthcare either. Have we poisoned this issue?

So now we will have a Supreme Court with three justices nominated by this administration deciding whether to keep the engine, replace the transmission, or in fact tow it to the junkyard. Heck, they could just wash and wax and call it good. Who knows? It’s just amazing to me, that as an engaged electorate, we have let this happen.

Most who look at this pending case agree that if the whole law is found unconstitutional, the effect will be very broad and profound. The health insurance market will be scrambling, people will lose health insurance, and the disruption will be explosive. Maybe then we will be able to talk about a solution. But we need to fix it or junk it.