The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion My Republican colleagues’ ploy threatens the future of the electoral college

Stanchions are placed in the Capitol rotunda on Tuesday. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg)

Ken Buck, a Republican, represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats in Congress wrote the playbook for how to dispute an election’s outcome. Republican members of Congress may soon regret that they have adopted not only the rhetoric but the actual tactics from that playbook in their attempt to reject the 2020 election results.

I share the concerns of many voters across the country about irregularities in the presidential election. I also share their disappointment with President Trump’s loss. However, the Founders trusted the states to decide elections, not members of Congress.

The Republican members who plan to reject certain electors read into the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act a provision that simply does not exist. The 12th Amendment is simple and clear: It calls on Congress to perform the ceremonial role of counting electors. There is no allowance for rejecting electors — no matter how much we may disagree with the result or wish the election process had been better.

The electoral college has come under attack in recent years. The left characterizes the system as an antiquated, undemocratic method of selecting the president. In reality, our nation’s Founders designed this system as a compromise that takes into account a variety of competing concerns. The electoral college balanced a desire to allow individuals across the nation to vote for president while also ensuring that small states’ voters would not be ignored.

The system is complex and often requires explanation. On Capitol Hill, it is usually my Democratic colleagues who need reminders of the electoral college’s vital role in preserving our system of federalism. This week, however, it is Republican members of Congress who require a refresher course about why the electoral college must be preserved — and why we should avoid the temptation of using this system in a misguided effort to jettison a presidential election.

For decades, progressives have tried to abolish the electoral college in favor of a direct democracy approach; under their plan, votes would be cast in a national election, bypassing electors and the states. They have pushed populist initiatives, most notably the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, to do away with the electoral college without even having to go through the inconvenience of a constitutional amendment. This interstate compact directs participating states to cast their electoral votes for the presidential candidate with the highest number of votes nationwide — regardless of the choice of the voters in their own states.

The current ploy by my Republican colleagues, to challenge the electors in one or more states, threatens the future of the electoral college. It lends credence to opponents’ arguments that this system overrides votes and tramples on the will of voters.

The path that led to this episode began with Trump’s victory in 2016. Progressives did everything they could to undermine his policy initiatives, and even impeached him.

Emotions run high in this partisan environment, and given everything our president has unfairly endured, it is easy to understand why so many of his supporters think the election may have been stolen. But the choice before us now is to accept the results of the November election, or to object and undermine not only the president but also the institutions that define us as a free people.

The electoral college is a safeguard on our system of federalism and individual liberty — not an invitation to do an end-run around election results.

Read more:

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Jennifer Rubin: Just imagine if Republicans had done this 11 months ago