There is a great deal of talk lately about Donald Trump making a run for the White House as an independent. He can’t win if he were to try and do so. It is mathematically impossible. An independent run, post convention, would be doomed from the beginning to fail, there aren’t enough electoral votes to win.
Conservative Review wanted to find out if it was even plausible for Trump to not only run, but also win as an Independent. They went and contacted the elections officers of all fifty states to find out not only their filing deadlines, ballot access, but also if there were any “sore-loser laws” on the books.
“Sore-loser laws” basically bar a candidate who has run in a partisan primary from appearing on a general election ballot as an independent or non-partisan candidate.
Based on the responses so far, Trump can run in the majority of states as an independent. However, he is barred from running as a third-party candidate in some states; those states and their electoral votes add up to over 35 percent of all electoral votes.
According to Rob Eno the director of research for the CR, sixteen states confirmed to Conservative Review that they have sore-loser laws which apply to presidential candidates: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Some of these states include Trump’s strongest area of support, like Alabama, West Virginia, Georgia, and Arizona.
But, can’t Trump just challenge these laws in court? Of course, but consider that former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ran afoul of Michigan’s sore-loser law in 2012 and the Supreme Court refused to take up his case. Johnson missed the deadline to withdraw from the Michigan Republican primary by three hours and therefore was unable to then run as a Libertarian in the general election in Michigan. Trump, having appeared on the primary ballot, finds himself in a similar predicament.
Taking into account these seventeen states, Trump would be ineligible to compete for 211 electoral votes, almost 40 percent, a significant burden for Trump to secure the presidency through an independent run. With 538 electoral votes up for grabs, Trump would have to hit the magic number of 270 from the smaller available pool of 327 electoral votes.
More Electoral Votes Off the Table
But the math gets even worse, in some states Trump has missed the deadline to mount an independent bid. Take for example New Mexico where, Kerry Fresquez, the Elections Director of the state, told Conservative Review that the deadline to qualify for the November ballot as an independent has already passed. Fresquez further stated that Donald Trump has not applied for ballot access, meaning he can’t run as an independent. That removes another five electoral votes. Coupled with the states that have sore-loser laws, that takes a minimum of 216 electoral votes off the table for Trump: leaving only 322 for which he can compete.
Furthermore, the Republican National Convention is scheduled to start on July 18th and scheduled to end on July 21st. This further complicates an independent Trump bid as there are six states (AK, CO, DE, FL, OK, and RI) that have confirmed to CR that their filing deadlines for an independent candidacy fall before the convention even begins.
The state of Washington is a special case, their filing deadline is after the convention and a candidate must run in an “independent” convention to qualify for the ballot. That convention must be held by July 23rd; just two days after the close of the Republican convention. Brian Zylstra, spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State told CR that state law, “requires publication of a convention notice, published 10 days before the minor party/independent candidate convention, in a newspaper of general circulation within the county of the convention.” The latest date to do this would be July 13th.
That means Trump would have to declare his intention to run as an independent before the Republican National Convention in those seven states. Altogether, those states account for 67 electoral votes. If Trump were to wait until after the Republican National Convention to declare an independent candidacy, he could only compete for a maximum of 255 electoral votes. This means he cannot win the presidency were he to wait until after convention to run an independent bid.
Trump Can’t Win Dark Blue States
To make matters even worse the states he would need to win, if he got out of the GOP race prior to the convention, are traditionally solidly blue states such as Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Illinois. Those six states together would remove 74 electoral votes. This would leave less than the 270 votes Trump would need to win.
Unless Donald Trump declared his intention to leave the Republican primary today, it would be all but impossible to attain 270 electoral votes as an independent candidate. An independent run, post convention, would be doomed from the beginning to fail, there aren’t enough electoral votes to win.
UPDATED: This commentary was updated at 10 AM Eastern time, after Texas confirmed to Conservative Review that they are a sore-loser state. Texas has 38 Electoral Votes in the Electoral College.
2nd UPDATE: Election officials in Oregon, South Carolina, and South Dakota confirmed to Conservative Review that they are sore loser states. The article has been updated taking into account the additional 19 electoral votes. The update was made at 4:00 PM ET 3/31/16.
3rd UPDATE: Election officials in Mississippi confirmed that they are a sore loser states. The article has been updated, taking into account the additional 6 electoral votes. The update was made at 11:30 AM ET 4/1/16.
SOURCE: Rob Eno Conservative Review