• February 29, 2024

Elections should be decided by voters, not partisan politicians

 Elections should be decided by voters, not partisan politicians

Screenshot Washington Examiner

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Wall Street Journal , the Washington Post , and numerous think tanks across the political spectrum don’t agree on much these days, yet they all believe that updating the Electoral Count Act is necessary to protect our elections and strengthen this country.

This little known law, enacted in 1887, is designed to ensure that the will of the people following a presidential election is not overturned or twisted by wily politicians in Washington. The act provides the framework governing the casting and counting of electoral votes, including Congress’ limited role in this process, but it is clear that updates are needed to this antiquated law so that we may once again affirm that our elections are decided by the voters, not by Congress or a vice president injecting their politics over the clear intentions of the people.

Our nation has faced three close elections in this century alone — 2000, 2016, and 2020 — and an outdated ECA threatens future peaceful transitions of power in what will be, undoubtedly, also close contests. Presidential races and vitriolic campaigns might temporarily divide us, but once over, elections shouldn’t permanently cut us off from one another based on party or prevent the winner from assuming power or governing the country. The people’s legitimate votes must be counted, the states‘ laws must be respected, and politicians in Washington should not be able to steer or taint the constitutional process. “We the people” must decide our elections, and our votes should not be changed by Congress, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans. Americans must believe in the integrity of our elections and trust the election process. It is the bedrock of our representative democracy.

As it currently stands, the ECA does not clearly define the role of the vice president in the counting of electoral votes as president of the Senate. Some have falsely argued that a vice president can decide election results and even substitute their own political preferences over the will of the people. That would be calamitous. No party or politician should have the capacity to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

Other changes — such as making it harder for members of Congress to challenge the election results of individual states — are just as critical to ensure we don’t face a constitutional crisis in the near future.

Updating the ECA on its own is not a cure-all, nor will it fix our broken political system. There’s more that needs to be done, but we must pursue and agree to bipartisan solutions where they exist. If Republicans and Democrats can come together to get this done, then that is what they must do.

Such action is supported by a majority of Republican and Democratic voters, according to a number of recent polls . Many have expressed their concern that one party in Congress could try to overturn the results of an upcoming presidential election to put their own candidate in power. Our leaders should listen to the American people and fix this outdated law so that the next presidential election — and a smooth and peaceful transition of power — is not left to chance.

We’re encouraged that members on both sides of the aisle — including McConnell; Sens. John Thune, John Cornyn, Angus King, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Tim Kaine, Ron Johnson, and Steve Daines; and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, as well as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — are exploring ways to update the ECA. Such broad bipartisan support reminds us that this isn’t about benefiting one party over another. Both parties have an opportunity to affirm that America is exceptional because we regularly hold national elections run by the states, accept the outcome, and peacefully transfer power based on the results.

The true power of our democracy has always resided in the hands of the people. If we believe this to be true, then the role of Congress on Jan. 6 every four years is very simple. Politicians don’t determine who wins elections; that’s left to the voters.

Zach Wamp is a former Republican congressman from Tennessee, and Tim Roemer is a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. They currently serve as co-chairmen of  Issue One’s Reformers Caucus .

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