How Voting Rights Bills Miss the Target on Electoral Subversion

More than a year after the attack on Capitol Hill, President Biden and Congressional Democrats still don’t seem close to putting in plac...

More than a year after the attack on Capitol Hill, President Biden and Congressional Democrats still don’t seem close to putting in place strong safeguards against another attempt to overthrow a presidential election.

One reason is obvious: There isn’t enough support in the Senate for Democrats to pass the two voting rights proposals Mr. Biden put forward in his speech in Atlanta on Tuesday.

But there’s another less obvious reason: Neither the franchise bills, nor the emerging bipartisan effort to reform the Electoral Count Act, will certainly shut down some of the most likely avenues of electoral subversion.

While the various legislative tracks could protect access to the vote or fulfill the promise to clarify how Congress counts electoral votes, the proposals are largely silent on a crucial period – the period between the close of polls in November and January, when Congress meets to count the electoral votes. voice. This is when election administrators take on the once routine task of counting and certifying election results.

Many analysts believe the electoral process could be most vulnerable during this period, when the actions of a handful of officials could precipitate a constitutional crisis. The risks were evident after the last election, when former President Donald J. Trump and his allies relentlessly sought to persuade election officials to refuse to certify the results or invalidate the ballots. Hardly any election administrator joined Mr. Trump’s efforts. A friendlier voice could answer the phone the next time a president calls a secretary of state seeking 11,000 more votes.

Yet the obscure inner workings of compiling and certifying the vote have received less attention, whether in legislative proposals or in the media, than the spectacle of violence on Capitol Hill or the wave of new Republican laws. to restrict access to voting.

The two legislative tracks – the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act – that the president promoted on Tuesday offer at least some protection against electoral subversion.

The Freedom to Vote Act has evolved considerably since the summer, when its predecessor contained almost no provisions to address the problem. Now he’s trying to respond to the many Republican election laws that target election workers and non-partisan election officials, while also including other provisions that indirectly protect the counting process – including paper ballot requirements. and chain of custody, and guarantees against rejection of mail-in ballots due to a missing security envelope or inaccurate signature match.

But the proposed laws do not regulate the process of certifying the vote – the focal point of Mr. Trump and his allies as they tried to overturn the last election. Although their attempt was unsuccessful, some of their efforts came close enough to represent a credible path for future electoral subversion.

Certification of elections by local election administrators is one example.

In Wayne County, Michigan, which includes the majority-Black, Democratic-majority city of Detroit, two Republicans first blocked certification in 2020 before quickly backing down. And one of two Republican members of a Michigan statewide board of directors declined to certify the results. If the other Republican on the board had done the same, Michigan would have failed to certify – and it’s unclear what would have happened as a result.

Next time the result might be different.

Today, Republicans who believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen are on the verge of assume greater power across the country, from serving on local election commissions to winning or running for secretary of state. With Republican voters remaining loyal to Mr. Trump, many GOP officials may have a very different understanding of what voters expect of them than what they had before the last election.

Likewise, the Democratic voting rights bills would do little to guard against other avenues Mr. Trump is taking to invalidate the 2020 election, such as putting pressure on the vice president and Republicans in the country. Congress to ignore or topple Electoral College delegates, or pressure state legislatures to ignore the certified election result and nominate Trump’s voters.

The anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Freedom to Vote Act have been interpreted as providing indirect protection against a Congressional effort to overthrow a presidential election, assuming this would reduce the likelihood of Republican control of Congress.

But even this provision appears to have diminishing utility, as Democrats seem poised to gerrymand enough Democratic-leaning seats in New York City, Illinois, and other states to ensure a relatively fair national struggle for control of the nation. Congress. And the proposal does not include a ban on state legislative gerrymandering, a tactic Republicans have sometimes used in states like Wisconsin, Georgia or Texas to create majorities so lopsided it’s plausible to imagine. how there could be enough support to overturn a closely contested election.

Unlike Democratic voting bills, an attempt to reform the Electoral Count Act – the 1887 law that established procedures for the counting of electoral votes – might be more likely to more directly address the risk of voting. an intentional campaign to reverse the outcome of a certified election to Congress.

In recent weeks, various lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate have been possible solutions to the law. Kentucky Republican and Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell reported open-mindedness to revise the law, although many progressives see the push as part of an attempt to derail their own voting rights initiatives.

These talks are still in their infancy, so it’s still too early to assess what a final version would or might not accomplish.

At a minimum, the reform of the Electoral Count Act would likely clarify the role of the vice president in the counting of the electoral votes and make it more difficult to overturn legal voters lists, while presumably preserving the possibility for Congress to overturn a voters list. illegal. But that wouldn’t protect access to the vote or reduce gerrymandering, like the Democratic proposals. It also might not protect the process of tabulating and certifying results, at least not before Congress meets to count the electoral votes.

And while violence on Capitol Hill has made the electoral counting process the most vulnerable part of electoral certification, it may not be the most likely route to electoral subversion. It might as well be the most likely way to stop it. Kamala Harris, not Mike Pence or another Trump ally, will be the vice president in 2024. There are at least a dozen Senate Republicans – and possibly many more – who seem very unlikely to accept a cheeky push to overthrow a legitimate voters list. Even Mr. McConnell doesn’t seem likely to accept it.

A threat of more serious subversion could emerge earlier in the process, if state officials invalidate or overturn the result of free and fair elections without violating state laws, perhaps by refusing to certify a result. and send a single list of voters to Congress. The burden on Congress would be reversed: democracy would now depend on Congress intervention and the cancellation of the voters list. Without simultaneously safeguarding the process of counting and certifying the votes, making it more difficult to overturn a legitimate voters list could risk making it too difficult for Congress to overthrow a subverted list.

It is possible that a possible reform proposal to the Electoral Counts Law will succeed in balancing these competing risks. Legislators seem aware of the problem; some scholars to have thought about it. But despite a year devoted to threats to democracy, there is still no firm legislative proposal to close the channels Mr. Trump has taken to try to overthrow the last election.

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Newsrust - US Top News: How Voting Rights Bills Miss the Target on Electoral Subversion
How Voting Rights Bills Miss the Target on Electoral Subversion
Newsrust - US Top News
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