In light of revelations on Friday that Russian hackers interfered with the presidential election specifically to elect Donald Trump, Clinton supporters and advocates of free democracy are eagerly searching for potential measures to prevent Trump from assuming the presidency at the hands of the Kremlin. One important legal precedent for such an impeachment is Marks v. Stinson, a 1994 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a state senate election and ordered the vacancy to be filled by the losing opponent after massive fraud was uncovered.
The Pennsylvania state senate held a special election in 1993 to fill a seat left vacant by the death of the previous senator. The contest pitted Republican Bruce Marks against Democrat William Stinson, who was ultimately successful in winning the seat. After Stinson was elected, however, evidence of widespread fraud in the election came to light.
Moreover, two elected officials testified under oath that they had been aware of the fraud and did nothing. Thus after Stinson had already taken office a federal judge ordered that he vacate his seat within 72 hours and hand it over to Marks, a ruling that was maintained upon appeal by the Supreme Court.
While the circumstances of the 1994 case are obviously significantly different from the controversy surrounding last month’s election, the ruling does establish some degree of a precedent for a high court overturning the results of an election based on evidence of malfeasance.
Thus if it becomes clear that Donald Trump won the presidency because of Russian interference – which, while hard to prove, does not seem out of the question – it would be possible for a court to invalidate the results and install Hillary Clinton. In Marks v. Stinson the testimony of the two elected officials who knew of the fraud proved crucial to the case.
Thus revelations that Mitch McConnell was aware of the Russian hacks and that members of Trump’s team were holding secret meetings with the Kremlin during the campaign bode well for any such impeachment effort.
Besides direct litigation there are several other efforts underway to prevent Trump from assuming the presidency. Chief among these is the campaign to convince Electoral College members to act as conscientious electors and vote for Clinton instead of Trump.
While Trump’s 37 vote lead in the electoral college makes such an effort unlikely, many have argued that the very reason the electoral college exists is to prevent a demagogic populist like Trump from riding to the presidency on a wave of ignorant anger.
Moreover, an online petition urging the Electoral College to vote for Hillary has surpassed five million signatures. As unlikely to succeed as these moves may seem, every effort we can make is worth it to protect this country, the world, and its people from a Trump presidency. And the fact that Trump seems to have won his victory with the aid of interference by a hostile foreign dictatorship is all the more reason to fight against his installation as the most powerful man in the world.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.