Accepting the Electoral College Vote, Or Not

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Senator Josh Hawley has said that he will vote against accepting the reported Electoral College vote in the joint session of Congress next week, and a number of Republican House members will do the same. Some reports say that 140 or more GOP House members will vote to reject the Electoral College tally in one or more states. As I understand it, if there are objections in both houses, the House and Senate are required to retire separately to debate the grounds for the objections, which will give Republicans an opportunity to air their voter fraud grievances.

Democrats have gone ballistic over this news, with “sedition” being one of their milder characterizations of Republican skepticism of official election results. Of course, it was not always so. In the past, Democrats have objected to Electoral College results on the flimsiest possible grounds. RedState has a good summary. In 2001, 2005 and 2017, Democratic Representatives and, in 2005, Senators voted against accepting the Electoral College tally. Thus, every Republican president since George H. W. Bush has seen Democrats vote against accepting the legitimacy of his election.

2005 is the best analogy. In that year, George W. Bush was re-elected rather easily over John Kerry, but the Democrats focused their rage on Ohio. They alleged that Bush’s re-election was illegitimate, mostly because the actual election results were different from certain exit polls, and also because of a ridiculous conspiracy theory involving Diebold voting machines. The vote in Ohio wasn’t even close; nevertheless, Democrats in both the House and Senate voted against accepting it.

This is what Nancy Pelosi had to say about the Democrats’ “sedition,” as they now call it, in 2005:

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Today we are witnessing democracy at work. This isn’t as some of our Republican colleagues have referred to it, sadly, as frivolous. This debate is fundamental to our democracy. The representatives of the American people in this house are standing up for three fundamental American beliefs: The right to vote is sacred; that a representative has a duty to represent his or her constituents; and that the rule of law is the hallmark of our nation.

Needless to say, she is singing a different tune today.

Questioning the 2020 Electoral College vote in various states is justified, but won’t do much good in the short term. Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. But the issue of ballot integrity needs to be highlighted. Lack of confidence in our elections–a justified lack of confidence–is, right now, the biggest threat to our democracy. Reforms are necessary, or confidence will erode further. It is hard to push back against cynicism when the cynics turn out to be right.


So, while it won’t do anything to prevent a Biden/Harris administration from taking office, objecting to electoral results in the joint House/Senate session, which is usually just a formality, can play a useful part in advancing the cause of election integrity. And the Democrats, having done the same thing repeatedly, only on frivolous grounds, are in no position to complain.

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