As the polls show an increasingly contested election, the possible scenarios for what could happen after Tuesday open up. The most important thing is to follow constitutional process, even at times when it does not seem like the fairest.
The normal outcome would be to have the same winner for both the popular vote and the Electoral College, whether it is Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. If this does not happen, the winner will be whoever obtains at least 270 votes in the Electoral College. In a democracy, such an electoral system seems like a relic, but that is a different issue.
This time, there is a small possibility that what took place in the 2000 election happens again. On that occasion, Democratic vice president Al Gore received over half a million votes more than his rival, Republican George W. Bush, but lost by nearly 500 votes in Florida. Those 25 electoral votes allowed Bush to get to the White House.
That was unthinkable while Clinton held a considerable advantage over Trump in the opinion polls, but the panorama has changed since last week thanks to the unwise letter sent by the FBI, which casts doubts regarding the investigation on the Democratic candidate’s emails while she headed the Department of State. Like Gore, Clinton would win practically every one of the most populated states but, just like in 2000, there are other states at stake that may give Trump a majority in the Electoral College.
On the other hand, the prospect that some voters may choose not to remain faithful to the candidate winning in their state, thus changing the outcome of the election, is remote, although it is possible.
The close margin of the election may also lend itself for Trump to say that it was “rigged” if he loses, as he repeats at every campaign rally. We must remember that the Florida vote recount was automatic as mandated by federal law, not because the candidate protested. That is why it is wrong to compare what happened to Gore to Trump’s threats to refuse to acknowledge the result of the election is he loses by a narrow margin.
Tuesday’s election seems increasingly unpredictable, which should motivate people to cast their vote. What matters most is that the results are clear, even if by a narrow margin, and that candidates accept it.