Congress must act to prevent an electoral coup in 2024 – Crookston Times

A group of senators came together last week to try to stop anyone from stealing the 2024 presidential election or inciting an armed mob to attack the Capitol again. The bipartisan group, led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), aims to update the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the archaic law that governs how Congress counts electoral votes that have become l subject of Donald Trump’s efforts to undo his 2020 election defeat. The fate of national democracy may hinge on whether these senators reach a deal, and soon: if Republicans take the House after the November election, a radicalized House GOP caucus will likely refuse to do anything that could be construed as hostile to Mr. Trump.

Some of the Democrats in the bipartisan group want to add voting-related measures to the bill they are negotiating. This is understandable; Congress did nothing as Republican state legislatures erected countless new barriers to voting. But the group should not be distracted. The reform of the law on the electoral count can attract 60 votes in the Senate; voting rights measures cannot.

A simple update of the law would be an important victory for democracy. After the 2020 vote, Mr. Trump’s lawyers concocted outlandish interpretations of the law that would have, among other things, allowed Vice President Mike Pence to throw out electoral votes at will. Fortunately, Mr. Pence resisted Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign to act on these futile arguments. But a future vice president might not be so principled.

An alarming number of GOP lawmakers have also used the law’s vague language — reading into the statute Congress’ broad power to intervene when electoral nominations aren’t “legally certified” or when electoral votes aren’t “regularly certified.” given” – to oppose the counting of electoral votes from a series of swing states that Joe Biden has worn. This language was not meant to empower partisan majorities in Congress to vote out presidential voters at will, but that was essentially the interpretation that most House Republicans had embraced.

Bipartisan negotiators must clarify the process so that it leaves no room for a de facto coup. It should be clear that the vice president only has a pro forma role of counting electoral votes. Members of Congress should only be allowed to oppose presidential voters in extremely specific circumstances — for example, if state officials send a list in defiance of a court order. The threshold for triggering a debate about whether to accept voters from a state should be much higher. The bipartite group seems to agree on these bases.

It would also take more than a simple majority to support such an objection, so it would be extremely difficult for a party to unilaterally overturn a presidential election. So far, the bipartisan group has not agreed to this reform. Lawmakers should clarify the role of the courts, giving the judiciary the power to settle election disputes before Congress counts electoral votes. And they should make it clear what happens when the House and Senate disagree on a state’s voters list, so there’s no doubt about which candidate gets a state’s votes.

The country cannot limp into another presidential election with electoral rules open to misinterpretation and partisan abuse. Congress should have no higher priority than fixing the voter count law immediately.

About Michael S. Montanez

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