Election Correction

Almost two years after a defeated president tried to undo the election he lost, Congress has made changes designed to make that kind of thing harder to do. Vox summarized the changes:

States must appoint electors in accordance with state laws “enacted prior to election day” — no mischief allowed after the fact. States have to set the rules of the game before the election, and can’t change them afterward.

The state’s governor has a “duty” to certify appointment of electors. But just in case an election-denying governor plans some shenanigans, … federal courts have oversight over these certifications, and creates a special expedited process by which courts can quickly hear challenges, which could then rapidly be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is “solely ministerial.” He or she “shall have no power to solely determine, accept, reject, or otherwise adjudicate or resolve disputes” over electoral votes.

One representative and senator objecting can no longer break up the vote count — it will take one-fifth of both the House and Senate objecting for that to happen… If the House and Senate do separate to deal with objections, time to debate and vote on each objection is limited to two hours, so no indefinite delays.

The only permissible grounds for an objection are if the electors aren’t lawfully certified, or if an elector vote isn’t regularly given. And Congress must treat certifications from a state’s governor as conclusive except if courts say otherwise….

If some electoral votes aren’t counted for whatever reason, the majority threshold for winning the presidency falls [instead of remaining at 270 electoral votes, since in that situation, 270 would be more than a simple majority].

With a big enough majority, sufficient ingenuity and a lack of shame, future politicians might still find a way to put the loser in the White House. These changes will make that less likely,  but there’s a different, even bigger problem these reforms don’t address: the Constitution sometimes requires that the candidate who got fewer votes wins the election. From The Guardian:

Recent reforms to the laws governing the counting of Electoral College votes for presidential races are “not remotely sufficient” to prevent another attack like the one … at the Capitol on January 6, a member of the congressional committee which investigated the uprising has warned.

In an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, the Maryland House representative Jamie Raskin … renewed calls echoed by others – especially in the Democratic party to which he belongs – to let a popular vote determine the holder of the Oval Office.

“We should elect the president the way we elect governors, senators, mayors, representatives, everybody else – whoever gets the most votes wins,” Raskin said. “We spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year exporting American democracy to other countries, and the one thing they never come back to us with is the idea that, ‘Oh, that electoral college that you have, that’s so great, we think we will adopt that too’”…

Raskin said the US insistence on determining presidential winners through the Electoral College [which allocates a certain number of votes to each state] facilitated the attempt by [the loser’s] supporters to keep him in power. “There are so many curving byways and nooks and crannies in the electoral college that there are opportunities for a lot of strategic mischief.”

Raskin [argued that the new rules] don’t solve “the fundamental problem” of the Electoral College vote, which in 2000 and 2016 allowed both George W Bush and D___ T___ to win the presidency despite clear defeats in the popular vote….

Many Americans are taught in their high school civics classes that the electoral college prevents the handful of most populated areas in the US from determining the presidential winner because more voters live there than in the rest of the country combined.

[Although] states determine their presidential electoral vote winner by the popular vote, [almost all] give 100% of their electoral vote allotment to the winner of the popular vote even if the outcome is razor-thin. Critics say that, as a result, votes for the losing candidate end up not counting in any meaningful way, allowing for situations where the president is supported only by a minority of the populace….

“I think,” Raskin said, “that the Electoral College … has become a danger not just to democracy, but to the American people”.

And therefore to the world.