Wednesday's opening of the Electoral College votes before a joint session of Congress will be a lesson in U.S. government, so tune into C-Span or set your VCR.
Saturday, 11 GOP senators indicated they would vote to not seat electors from four contested seats until an Electoral Commission with investigatory and fact-finding authority conduct a 10-day audit of the returns in disputed states. Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said any objection to seating electors from the states "would go down like a shot dog." Four observations:
First, it would not be the first time an Electoral Commission has been appointed. In the 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tiden, there were serious allegations of election fraud in three states. One of the states - South Carolina - reported an impossible voter turnout of 101 percent more people voted than were registered. Congress appointed a 15-member commission consisting of five senators, five congressman, and five members of the Supreme Court. The commission voted 8-7 to award the contested electoral votes to Hayes, giving him a one electoral vote victory over Tiden. Democrats agreed to Hayes being president if Republicans would pull troops out of the South, and Hayes was sworn into office on March 5, 1887. The republic survived that very contentious election and it will survive this one.
Second, Congress has an obligation to verify contested states following their own election laws. Congress is not given constitutional authority on how individual states conduct their elections, but it is the duty of Congress to insure states follow their laws. There are many questions that at least four and up to seven states ignored their own election laws. Without integrity at the ballot box, the republic is doomed.
Third, by conducting an audit, perhaps future fraud can be avoided. At this point, it doesn't appear there are enough votes to get a commission appointed. The lip service many Republicans give to root out fraud and corruption is just that: lip service. The "swamp" dwellers are afraid an audit might uncover something they don't want uncovered. Cheating at the ballot box has been going on for 150 years, but the cavalier, indifferent, dismissive way Congress has avoided investigating it may have come home to roost. Until 2020, the average American wasn't paying much attention, but a recent poll showed 40 percent of Americans believe the 2020 election was stolen, and it is not just those wearing tinfoil hats. Congress may be forced to actually do something this time if those Americans keep paying attention.
Four, some elected officials are clearly using this as a political opportunity to appeal to the GOP base. Sens. Cruz and Hawley are ambitious grandstanders and are likely 2024 Republican presidential candidates. By their own admission, they have little chance of getting the commission appointed. Contesting the seating of the electors - even if it is long shot - boosts their stock with the hardcore rank and file GOP activists and kickstarts their 2024 campaign. Sometimes the grandstander gets into the game.
In their press release, the 11 senators said: "These are matters worthy of the Congress, and entrusted to us to defend. We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it. And every one of us should act together to ensure that the election was lawfully conducted under the Constitution and to do everything we can to restore faith in our Democracy."
The American people need to keep the pressure on their federal representatives to take on ballot box integrity, and introduction of a constitutional amendment standardizing the election procedure in electing the president and vice president in all states. Those are "matters worthy of Congress."
Steve Fair is the District 4 Oklahoma Republican Party chair.