How Hurricane Matthew might throw the election to Donald Trump

Hurricane Matthew was battering the east coast of Florida on Friday morning, killing one and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. As the category 3 storm moves north, 3.1 million people across three states have been ordered to evacuate, as wind gusts approaching 150 mph and surges over 10 feet are expected for 500 miles of the coast. With so many people fearing for their lives, most Floridians have bigger concerns than the country’s upcoming election. But beyond the devastation Hurricane Matthew will leave in its wake, it presents us with a nightmare scenario in which the state drastically influences who is elected president.

Florida’s registration deadline for voting is October 11. Registration rates are always highest nearing the cut off date — in 2012, 50,000 Floridians signed up to vote in the last five days they were eligible. What’s more, those who are registered could still be far away from their polling places on election day or unable to obtain early voting or absentee ballots in the weeks ahead of the election. With November 8 almost exactly one month away, you’d think officials in Florida would be proactive in an attempt to avoid the sort of bureaucratic mess that occurred in the state in 2000, but Governor Rick Scott, who has done his damndest to keep as many people away from the polls as possible, has been handed a godsend in Hurricane Matthew, and has already announced he will not extend the registration deadline because “everyone has had plenty of time to register.”

With Florida being such a crucial state to both Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s chances at winning the presidency, you can bet there’s going to be a lot of legal mumbo jumbo thrown around by both camps. Trump’s already seeded the idea in his supporters’ minds that any outcome unfavorable to him means the whole process was rigged, and since common conception is Democrats win when turn out is high, Clinton will want to get every vote possible counted. If the state results end up in court, Slate contends this would favor the Democrats because the Florida Supreme Court leans moderate to liberal, and the 11th Circuit Appellate Court has more Democrat-appointed judges.

But let’s say that this does end up at the federal level, and we’ve got another “Bush v. Gore” situation on our hands. With Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s nomination in Merrick Garland, we’ve currently got an ideologically locked stalemate of a court — four justices that lean liberal, four that more often than not lean conservative. Except that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be called on by the Trump campaign to recuse herself due to criticisms she made of the candidate back in July. He already has said she should resign.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

[photo: Getty]