WMNF | Update Electoral Count Act or American Democracy Will Fail, Election Crisis Group Says
In the wake of the fallout from the November 2020 elections and the Capitol uprising on January 6, a multi-party group of electoral experts said it was time to update the voter count law. Experts warn that the United States could end up like other failed democracies around the world if it doesn’t act quickly.
Democracy in decline
Freedom House has been analyzing and quantifying the state of democracy in the world for almost 50 years. According to the latest version of its flagship product Freedom in the world study, democracy is in danger.
“Democracies today do not die because of coups or wars,” said Rachel Kleinfeld. “By the way, most democracies are currently failing. We are about the fifteenth year of a global democratic recession. This is a fairly steady decline in all democracies. The United States is no exception to this rule. The way they decline is through elected leaders with undemocratic tendencies that change the rules of the game. ”
Kleinfeld sits on the Freedom House board of directors. According to its website, democracies are judged on their “electoral process; political pluralism and participation; the functioning of government; freedom of expression and belief; association and organization rights; the rule of law; and personal autonomy and individual rights.
Kleinfeld spoke during a zoom call from the National Electoral Crises Task Force this week. She warned that the United States could be heading for that same decline. She said close elections which are often contested; polarized parties with nearly equal electorates; as well as the false account of a stolen election which led to an attempted coup; all lead to the erosion of democracy in America.
“As these things happen, the damage gets worse,” she said. “Confidence in our system is crumbling. And that confidence is really the immune system of society. Societies and democracies depend on trust.
Confusion of counting
The task force published an essay that the Electoral Count Act, or ECA, needs to be updated to protect democracy. The ECA became law in 1887. It governs the issuance and counting of electoral votes. It is one of the most crucial laws governing how a president is elected.
Confusion over the counting law was partly responsible for the January 6 insurgency attempt. National terrorists storming Capitol Hill mistakenly believed they could prevent Congress and former Vice President Mike Pence from certifying the results. Certification of results even became a topic of discussion in most media covering the election.
Only that is not why they were there.
Zach Wamp was also on call. He is a Republican from Tennessee who served in the United States House of Representatives for 16 years.
“People were lied to and people were confused,” Wamp said. “And here’s why it happened. The role of Congress was simply to open the ballots and count them. Stop there. End of the story. Count them. That’s it.”
The working group listed five aspects of the ACE that could be updated
The first was the election schedule. The essay said poorly defined guidelines lead to electoral failures. In addition, the ECA should “clearly define when states choose their voters and define the narrow emergency circumstances in which voters can be chosen after election day”.
Then come the determinations of the State. The task force said that “the ECA must strengthen the confidence of the American people in the election results by better protecting each state’s ability to resolve its own post-election disputes and by limiting opportunities for questioning by partisan actors. of Congress ”. The task force recommended stronger measures to enforce “safe haven” deadlines.
Then there was the role of the vice president. The vice-president has a limited role in the electoral process. It’s mostly ministerial, but the wording of the current ECA leaves room for uncertainty, according to the essay. The task force wants this to be clarified.
This was followed by objections. Current practices allow for the revision of a state’s electoral count by simple objections. The task force wants the bar to be raised. MPs should “only be able to oppose a state’s electoral votes if the votes were the product of corruption or are objectively illegal, as if they relate to a constitutionally ineligible candidate for the presidency.”
And finally, there is dispute resolution. The working group said the ECA describes extensive but ambiguous resolution procedures. But said it should “be updated to establish congressional dispute resolution procedures as final safeguards in truly extraordinary situations.”
Time for change
Wamp said it was time to make these changes. The country is between a presidential election and mid-terms. He said a low-stakes year may offer the best chance for bipartisan reform. Everything else, he said, would be inadmissible.
“We need to clear this up. To me, it’s the equivalent of the state of Florida not making any electoral change after the year 2000 and expecting a different outcome, ”he said. “But they did. In fact, this year the state of Florida – after improving its processes – was perhaps the most efficient large state in America. “