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UK Expert Weighs In On Election Rigging, 'Nightmare' Scenarios

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AP Photo / Evan Vucci / John Locher
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A University of Kentucky election law expert says claims of election rigging by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump don’t square with the evidence.

Talk of voter fraud has been on the rise since the real estate mogul began raising the specter of an engineered outcome in next month's election. The GOP nominee recently elaborated on those comments during an appearance on Fox News.

"We have a system. I'm a big believer in the system. I love our country, but I think I've done a great service by pointing this out and a lot of people agree with what I'm saying," Trump told Sean Hannity.

UK law professor Joshua Douglas is not one of those people.

Sitting down with WUKY, the expert in post-election disputes says a number of factors – including voting machines’ lack of connection to the internet and the decentralized nature of the election process – are enough to discredit Trump’s assertions. Asked about the possibility, the CNN contributor is blunt in his assessment.

"Completely unrealistic – 100, 1000 percent," he says. "There is no possible way that some sort of election fraud or vote rigging could change the outcome of the presidential election."

Douglas does acknowledge relatively rare instances of low-level vote tampering in Kentucky and elsewhere, but cautions that those cases tend to involve absentee balloting fraud or paying off poll workers – not voter impersonation or the casting of multiple ballots.

In one of the most hotly-debated soundbites of the third and final presidential debate, Trump stopped short of endorsing the forthcoming election results, saying he will  “look at it at the time.” A CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday shows nearly 8 in 10  respondents agreeing that, whatever the outcome, the losing candidate has an obligation to accept the certified results, yet only 35% of participants expect Trump to do so.

Nightmare Scenarios (Or How To Really Keep Yourself Awake At Night)

Putting the concession questions aside, we were curious – just what would it take for the 2016 presidential election to provoke a constitutional crisis?

DouglasElectionWrap.mp3
Joshua Douglas lays out "nightmare" scenario.

In a standard election, one presidential hopeful crosses the 270 electoral vote finish line, the losing candidate makes that humbling phone call, and the rest is history. But election watchers and political junkies know other heady, albeit highly unlikely, possibilities exist. Thanks to the 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, giving the District of Columbia three Electoral College votes, it's possible for the frontrunners to wind up in a tie.

Douglas says if Clinton and Trump were to finish neck-and-neck at 269, sending the decision to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, each state delegation would get one vote.

"The really interesting and kind of scary scenario is if the House were to tie 25 to 25, based on the 50 state delegations, there is no mechanism in the Constitution for how to resolve that," he notes.

Still, with a hefty 60-seat GOP advantage in the lower chamber, the prospect of an even split would appear extremely remote.

Another hypothetical – one Douglas labels a “nightmare scenario” – would involve the currently even-numbered U.S. Supreme Court taking up a 2000-style election challenge. An evenly divided high court could potentially defer to a lower court ruling rendered by elected state judges.

"I don't think the country will be happy with a Supreme Court that were to tie 4-4 on a Bush v. Gore-type situation, which is also why I think, in many ways, Chief Justice John Roberts will do his best to try to avoid that because he cares about the institutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court," Douglas adds.

But before getting too worked up, it’s worth revisiting the odds. Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight puts the chances of a deadlocked Electoral College at .5 percent and a tie at just .3 percent.