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Can a U.S. election be overturned due to foreign interference? In the last U.S. election, people were concerned that Russia played a significant role in getting Donald Trump elected, so I was wondering if the current state of the law in the U.S. could allow the result of an election be overturned. If it is the case, I am wondering that are the conditions necessary for the decision to pass, and how long after the election the decision can be taken and by whom.

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With the president, no.

In the case where the election results cannot be certified, a safe harbor provision (3 U.S. Sec. 5) allows, if not requires, the state to appoint the electors by alternate means.

Under most conceivable circumstances, the process ends here.

However, if the House of Representatives refuses to accept the validity of those electors, and the president-elect still has a majority of the Electoral College, the state will simply have no say in the president's election.

If rejecting those electors leaves no candidate with a majority of the Electoral College, the House of Representatives itself will elect the president per the process in Art. II of the constitution, as amended by Amend. 12.

If the president-elect makes it past all these considerations to the oath of office, the only removal mechanism is impeachment.

With other state and federal offices, each state, as well as the federal government, has its own laws regarding disputed elections. But one remedy would have to be a new election.

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As describd in this article from the Atlantic NC State officials recently acted to, in effect, overturn a 2018 congressional election. More exactly, they refused to certify the result, and ordered a new election. This was done because of testimony saying that unlawful procedures were used by a hired campaign agent in collecting and altering absentee ballots.

Presumably, a similar "do over" could have been ordered had the improper conduct been done by someone who was not an employee of a candidate, such as a foreign agent. Note that the improper conduct was actual alteration of actual ballots. Mere false information or propaganda would not, I suspect, have caused the result to be rejected.

Note also that in this case it was the State Board of Elections which took this action. In some cases similar decisions have been made by courts.

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Can a U.S. election be overturned due to foreign interference? In the last U.S. election, people were concerned that Russia played a significant role in getting Donald Trump elected, so I was wondering if the current state of the law in the U.S. could allow the result of an election be overturned. If it is the case, I am wondering that are the conditions necessary for the decision to pass, and how long after the election the decision can be taken and by whom.

Basically no.

Once an electoral college vote for President has been accepted by Congress and proclaimed, that's it, and the decision cannot be overturned. After that, the President may only be removed by impeachment (for cause amounting to what Congress decides is a high crime or misdemeanor), for disability, by resigning voluntarily, by death, or by the expiration of the President's term of office. But, an election irregularity is not a ground to remove a President.

Likewise, once the U.S. House agrees to seat a representative, or the U.S. Senate agrees to seat a Senator, that's it and the decision cannot be overturned. Sitting members of Congress can be removed for cause (including disability) by a two-thirds vote of their respective chamber, death, or the end of the member's term, but not for an election irregularity.

The only time that an election irregularity can be raised is between the completion of the process of casting ballots and the acceptance of an election result communicated to Congress by state election officials and Presidential electors. This period of time lasts approximately two months (it has been shortened by Constitutional Amendment since the Constitution was originally adopted).

Even then, an election irregularity is pretty much limited to fraud or inaccuracy of some sort in the process of counting ballots that were validly cast or the in the voting process.

Merely campaigning, even if done in a completely illegal and improper and false has never in history, to the best of my knowledge, been used to invalidate an election for a federal elected office (there was very little such conduct that was even illegal until the mid-20th century).

This said, Congress is the final judge of all elections and there is no way to appeal a Congressional decision about who won an election for U.S. House or U.S. Senate or its count of electoral votes cast. Ultimately, under the U.S. Constitution, who won the election is a political question and is outside the jurisdiction of the courts.

Really the only way a court could have jurisdiction once a federal elected official has been seated would be if, for example, a Senator who was removed from office for cause, or whose term expired, refused to vacate his office and the entire Senate voted to petition a court for a court order to assist it in making the Senator leave. And, Congress would probably be within its rights to simply have its own security officials engage in self-help rather than seeking judicial relief.

So, for example, false social media campaigns run by Russian trolls, or illegal campaign financing by Russian agents would never be a ground to set aside an election in that narrow two month window. But, if it came out that Russian computer experts hacked some electronic voting machines in order to change the vote tally, and that was material enough to change the outcome and this was discovered and raised properly in the critical two month time period, then election officials might not submit a result to Congress or Congress might refuse to accept the result.

By the February of the year after a normal November, even numbered year election is held, and everyone has been sworn it, it doesn't legally matter if it is revealed that every single voting machine in the country was hacked by the North Koreans, although that might trigger a loss of confidence in the national government and a constitutional crisis is important people and the masses simply didn't accept that without regard to what the constitution or the law says, but that would still be an illegal coup if it happened.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean that countries or people who improperly and/or illegally can't be punished with fines and/or imprisonment and/or international diplomatic sanctions or even a declaration of war. But, what can't be done is to nullify the already accepted by Congress result of the election.

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The High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns has the power under Part XXII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to try a disputed return or refer the dispute to the Federal Court for them to try. The petition must be filed with the court within 40 days of [some complicated stuff which basically boils down to the point at which the election became final]. The court is required to make its decision "as quickly as is reasonable in the circumstances."

The powers of the court are detailed in s360 and include:

(v) To declare that any person who was returned as elected was not duly elected;

(vi) To declare any candidate duly elected who was not returned as elected;

(vii) To declare any election absolutely void;

In practice (v) & (vi) go together as in "he's out, she's in" and are the usual result where a candidate is invalid or has acted against the law.

(vii) is less common and usually relate to irregularities in the vote itself - for example, the 2013 Senate election in Western Australia was voided when 1,375 ballot papers were lost (out of almost 1.35 million) and a new election was held in 2014. It is worth noting that because the Senate is elected by proportional and preferential voting, small changes can affect the outcome.

  • Point (v) was exercised in the last years due to dual citizenship problems (elected officials may not be dual citizens ) – Mark Johnson May 28 at 5:33
  • This should be flagged as "not an answer" because it does not contain a single word of relevance to OP's question. – A.fm. May 28 at 5:44
  • @A.fm at the time the answer was posted the question did not have united-states – Dale M May 28 at 6:04
  • @MarkJohnson but (vi) was exercised at the same time. – Dale M May 28 at 6:04
  • @A.fm A documented sample on how an election can be partially or in whole can be overturned is an valid answer to the question, thus should not be down voted simply because you disagree. – Mark Johnson May 28 at 6:16

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