Court Battles

Experts dismiss Trump claim that it could take ‘years’ to declare election winner

President Trump on Thursday suggested it could take “years” to determine the winner of the upcoming presidential race, marking the latest in a series of election-related statements that experts dismissed as a legal or practical impossibility.

Trump’s comment came at a Thursday afternoon White House briefing just hours after he took to Twitter to suggest the Nov. 3 contest be delayed and insist that definitive results be made available on the night of the election.

“For so many years, I’ve been watching elections and they say the projected winner or the winner of the election,” Trump told White House reporters. “I don’t want to see that take place in a week after November 3, or a month or, frankly, with litigation and everything else that can happen, years.”

But none of Trump’s claims Thursday about the election timeline stand up to scrutiny, election law experts told The Hill.

While it may take longer than normal to determine this year’s outcome given the higher volume of expected absentee ballots, the process should not take longer than a month, according to Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University.

“Any state should be able to count votes-by-mail and verify it within a month unless something derails the system,” Foley said.

Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Law School, said it’s likely Americans will not know the winner of the presidential race on election night. But procedures codified in federal law and the Constitution prevent any lingering uncertainty about the election results from grinding the government to a halt.

Under current law, members of the electoral college are scheduled to meet and vote on Dec. 14. After that, Congress will convene on Jan. 6 to count the votes. The Constitution also clearly states that the sitting president’s term ends Jan. 20.

“We should get ready for the fact that we may not know who won on Election Night,” Levitt said. “But there’s a process for counting, and a process for fighting over the count, and the Constitution says that all of that is over, full stop, well before noon on January 20.”

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