Debunked: Claim that the Electoral College Count On Jan 6 will Change the Election

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
There's a claim being passed around that when Congress does the formal count of the Electoral College votes on January 6th, then the "alternate electors" sent by Trump's campaign will trigger a series of debates which will result in those electors replacing those certified by the states.

This claim is false, and the quickest way of understanding why it is to look at the time such a challenge happened in 2005:

Article:
Instead of holding a courteous joint session to certify the election, lawmakers were forced to retreat to their separate chambers for two hours of debate and a vote on the challenge. Democrats, nearly all of whom conceded that Mr. Bush was the rightful winner, said the move cast a needed spotlight on voting rights. Republicans called it waste of time.

"This is a travesty," said Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership, who forced a formal roll call vote in the Senate to spotlight lawmakers' positions. Of Democrats, he said, "They're still not over the 2000 election, let alone the 2004 election."

The challenge cast a spotlight on divisions among Democrats, with party leaders and many in the rank and file distancing themselves from the effort, while black and liberal lawmakers embraced it. The Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, did not support the objection, nor was he on hand to witness it. He was in the Middle East, meeting with troops.

In the end, the House voted 267 to 31 against the challenge. In the Senate, where the vote was 74 to 1, Mrs. Boxer stood alone.


The key point is that the house has to vote to sustain such objections, and since the democrats will control the house, then they it's simply not going to happen. In addition, the majority of house and senate members realized it was not valid, and either voted against it, or abstained.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Article:
January 6, 2021: Joint Session of Congress to Count Electoral Votes and Declare Election Results Meets
On January 6, or another date set by law, the Senate and House of Representatives assemble at 1:00 p.m. in a joint session at the Capitol, in the House chamber, to count the electoral votes and declare the results(3 U.S.C. §15). The Vice President presides as President of the Senate. The Vice President opens the certificates and presents them to four tellers, two from each chamber. The tellers read and make a list of the returns. When the votes have been ascertained and counted, the tellers transmit them to the Vice President. If one of the tickets has received a majority of 270 or more electoral votes, the Vice President announces the results, which “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President."

Joint Session Challenges to Electoral Vote Returns
While the tellers announce the results, Members may object to the returns from any individual state as they are announced. Objections to individual state returns must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours. The two houses then vote separately to accept or reject the objection. They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes. An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded. For additional information, see CRS Report RL32717, Counting Electoral Votes: An Overview of Procedures at the Joint Session, Including Objections by Members of Congress, coordinated by Elizabeth Rybicki and L. Paige Whitaker.

(Emphasis mine.)
The House of Representatives is not going to approve any objection to Joe Biden's electors. The outcome is predictable.
 

econ41

Senior Member
The key point is that the house has to vote to sustain such objections, and since the democrats will control the house, then they it's simply not going to happen.
From the perspective of a non-US observer that is the saddest relection on US politics. The acceptance that political party loyalty will take precedence over honest objectivity. "...since the democrats will control the house, then they it's simply not going to happen."
In addition, the majority of house and senate members realized it was not valid, and either voted against it, or abstained.
"Or abstained" AKA "took the cowards way out" but I'm not totally naive. AU politics would also see abstentions.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The acceptance that political party loyalty will take precedence over honest objectivity.
Let's break that statement down.
For it to apply, "party loyalty" and "honest objectivity" must mandate opposite votes.

If you want to apply it to the Democrats, you must believe that, objectively, the elections and the courts have failed. Do you?

If you want to apply it to the Republicans, you need to know how they would vote if the required members come forth and object. I'm sure I can't predict that, can you?

Concerning people abstaining, have you ever not told someone what you thought of them? Because it was more polite, and it didn't really matter, and you didn't want to antagonize them? Everyone does that.
These delegates voting to abstain on that challenge a) know their abstention does not change the outcome, and b) are allied with those bringing the challenge, and want to continue to work with them in the future. So a vote of abstention does not affect the outcome, but does not antagonize, either. It helps pave the way for co-operation going forward, instead of forcing division on ideological grounds.

Politics in a democracy works by building groups united behind a common goal, and compromising to make that possible. Driving hard ideological lines means you isolate yourself, and lose the power to come closer to your goals. It also means you won't allow anyone to challenge your own reality -- and I'm sure that's a bad rabbit hole to go down, right? If anything, the past four years have made that obvious.
Abstaining is not cowardice, it is diplomacy. It may mean peace and not war.
 

Miss VocalCord

Senior Member.
But have the 'alternative electors' been properly certified even?

"States with close contests between Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden could produce competing slates of electors, one certified by the governor and the other by the legislature."
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-dueling-electors-explain-idUSKBN2712M7

Have these alternative electors been assigned by the legislature at all? All I have read is that they declared themselves at such, giving their vote no value at all to start with.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Have these alternative electors been assigned by the legislature at all?
I don't believe that has happened this year, and I don't believe it's going to happen.

If you read the excerpt I posted from the Congress source, only the certificates that the Vice President opens get considered by Congress. He can just throw all of these "alternative" certificates in the trash.
 

econ41

Senior Member
The acceptance that political party loyalty will take precedence over honest objectivity.

Let's break that statement down.
I would prefer to leave it at the level of the observation I made. Or - extending the "levels" metaphor - "break the statement "UP" - put it in the higher level context I referred to.

If you want to apply it to the Democrats, you must believe that, objectively, the elections and the courts have failed. Do you?

If you want to apply it to the Republicans, you need to know how they would vote if the required members come forth and object. I'm sure I can't predict that, can you?
I "want it to apply" - I meant it to apply - to the specific situation I identified as: "From the perspective of a non-US observer that is the saddest reflection on US politics." (I corrected the spelling error of the original.)
Concerning people abstaining, have you ever not told someone what you thought of them? Because it was more polite, and it didn't really matter, and you didn't want to antagonize them? Everyone does that.
These delegates voting to abstain on that challenge a) know their abstention does not change the outcome, and b) are allied with those bringing the challenge, and want to continue to work with them in the future. So a vote of abstention does not affect the outcome, but does not antagonize, either. It helps pave the way for co-operation going forward, instead of forcing division on ideological grounds.
I comprehend the pragmatics of political reality as a general principle. My comment was an assessment of a specific situation - abstention in the face of a procedurally improper proposal.
Politics in a democracy works by building groups united behind a common goal, and compromising to make that possible. Driving hard ideological lines means you isolate yourself, and lose the power to come closer to your goals. It also means you won't allow anyone to challenge your own reality -- and I'm sure that's a bad rabbit hole to go down, right? If anything, the past four years have made that obvious.
I comprehend the processes and group dynamics.
Abstaining is not cowardice, it is diplomacy. It may mean peace and not war.
Again I comprehend the generic principle. I commented on a specific situation.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
I commented on a specific situation.
The specific situation in 2005, as presented by Mick's source (use a private window to get past the paywall):
Article:
It was only the second such challenge to a presidential race since 1877.
[..]
The election in Ohio, one of the most fiercely contested states, has been seized on by the Green Party, liberal Democrats and advocates of changing the voting system because of its long lines, lack of uniform policies on provisional ballots and the allocation of voting machines.

The specific aim of the challengers was not to overturn the election.
Their aim was to draw attention to what they saw as voter disenfranchisement in Ohio.
"From the perspective of a non-US observer", which I am, this is understandable.
And it had nothing to do with party loyalty.

The Democrat delegates upholding the electoral vote on January 6th, 2021 won't have anything to do with party loyalty, either.

But insulting someone who votes to abstain as "coward", that is sad.
 
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Mauro

Active Member
From the perspective of a non-US observer that is the saddest relection on US politics. The acceptance that political party loyalty will take precedence over honest objectivity. "...since the democrats will control the house, then they it's simply not going to happen."
From the perspective of this non-US observer the sadness is in the repeated and meritless efforts to subvert the clear Biden victory, and yet sadder is to see how many people subscribe fideistically to a bunk-based worldview (this is not limited to US, of course) even, or maybe because, it may lead to a loss of democracy. It's scary, actually.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
To state my opinion more strongly:

It's sad to hear that in some neighborhoods in the USA, people have to wait outside for hours to exercise their right to vote; and that they need to do this on a working day. I have never had to wait more than 15 minutes to vote, and I understand that the same applies to US citizens living in more affluent counties. That not everyone can vote like this is sad.

The joint session of Congress electing the president having been delayed by 2 hours because a Representative and a Senator decided to draw attention to this sad state of affairs is ok.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
It's sad to hear that in some neighborhoods in the USA, people have to wait outside for hours to exercise their right to vote; and that they need to do this on a working day.

i can hear billions of people around the world thinking "oh, boo hoo. those poor Americans. they suffer so."
 

econ41

Senior Member
i can hear billions of people around the world thinking "oh, boo hoo. those poor Americans. they suffer so."
Maybe some but not billions. I recognise the ambiguity whether you mean poorer countries or those who comprehend the failings of the US electoral and constitutional processes.

I my experience very few Aussies are even interested - a few - very few are pro-Trump politically. The ones I know are anti-vax and other holders of fringe health opinions who support Trump for COVID and vax related reasons. Not politically extreme right per se. We have very few "right" people who are as far right as the US Republicans and we have one minority party of that fringe.
 

econ41

Senior Member
From the perspective of this non-US observer the sadness is in the repeated and meritless efforts to subvert the clear Biden victory, and yet sadder is to see how many people subscribe fideistically to a bunk-based worldview (this is not limited to US, of course) even, or maybe because, it may lead to a loss of democracy. It's scary, actually.
That is near enough the same opinion as mine. Hence my interest in debating the real issues rather than nit picking the details of election counting and media prediction of outcomes.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
i can hear billions of people around the world thinking "oh, boo hoo. those poor Americans. they suffer so."
Deirdre, the 2005 event we're talking about here was about disenfranchisement of predominantly *black* Americans in Ohio. This year, you could hear thousands around the world on a similar issue:
Article:
As the protests continued in the United States for a second week in response to the killing of George Floyd, people around the world began to stand up with them. From London to Pretoria to Sydney, people took to the streets to express the need for police reform and racial equality. Many held signs that read "Black Lives Matter," while others kneeled. At some protests, marchers stood in silence for the amount of time Floyd struggled to breathe while police officers detained him.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Deirdre, the 2005 event we're talking about here was about disenfranchisement of predominantly *black* Americans in Ohio.

now you're comparing standing in long lines, with what happened to George Floyd?! ie. needed police reform?

That's an odd tactic, because what i was thinking when i read your comment i quoted, was along the lines of "noooo. what is sad is what happened to George Floyd."

We're obviously miscommunicating again.
 

NoParty

Senior Member.
Deirdre, the 2005 event we're talking about here was about disenfranchisement of predominantly *black* Americans in Ohio. This year, you could hear thousands around the world on a similar issue:
Article:
As the protests continued in the United States for a second week in response to the killing of George Floyd, people around the world began to stand up with them. From London to Pretoria to Sydney, people took to the streets to express the need for police reform and racial equality. Many held signs that read "Black Lives Matter," while others kneeled. At some protests, marchers stood in silence for the amount of time Floyd struggled to breathe while police officers detained him.
Yes, it's a "problem" that gets repeated in election after election: I (a white guy in a "nice" neighborhood) too, vote quickly and easily, while millions of Black Americans are forced to make significant time/work sacrifices to get their votes counted.
The Law of Demand (economics) is that the harder you make something
(either by a higher monetary price tag, or a longer time wait, etc.)
the less people will buy or participate.

I put "problem" in quotation marks, because it's not really a problem in the eyes of a party that
has learned that ~90% of blacks will vote against most Republican candidates.
Sadly, there isn't a lot of motivation to fix a "problem" (even a grossly unethical one)
if it keeps aiding your team in elections.
 
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JMartJr

Senior Member
I have been trying to understand the "Safe Harbor" rule as it relates to January 6 (if it does) and not finding a consistent clear answer, just lots of what sounds to me like half-informed semi-speculation. Can anybody speak authoritatively on what impact the fact that all states (except, I believe, WI) certified their electors before the Safe Harbor deadline has on challenges and such on 1/6 at the joint session? Did it just offer protection from challenges before voting? Or does it only protect from challenges from outside of Congress? Or what?

Posted here since the discussion is (or was) about what will actually happen on 1/6 -- if this should be elsewhere, apologies (about Appology Level Two) and feel free to move it or tell me to do so, if I can...
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I have been trying to understand the "Safe Harbor" rule as it relates to January 6 (if it does) and not finding a consistent clear answer, just lots of what sounds to me like half-informed semi-speculation.
It was on Dec 8th.
Article:
December 8, 2020: The “Safe Harbor” Deadline The U.S. Code (3 U.S.C. §5) provides that if election results are contested in any state, and if the state, prior to election day, has enacted procedures to settle controversies or contests over electors and electoral votes, and if these procedures have been applied, and the results have been determined six days before the electors’ meetings, then these results are considered to be conclusive, and will apply in the counting of the electoral votes. This date, known as the “Safe Harbor” deadline, falls on December 8 in 2020. The governor of any state where there was a contest, and in which the contest was decided according to established state procedures, is required (3 U.S.C. §6) to send a certificate describing the form and manner by which the determination was made to the Archivist as soon as practicable.


The votes have been certified and counted by each state. All that remains is the Jan 6th counting.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
It was on Dec 8th.
Article:
December 8, 2020: The “Safe Harbor” Deadline The U.S. Code (3 U.S.C. §5) provides that if election results are contested in any state, and if the state, prior to election day, has enacted procedures to settle controversies or contests over electors and electoral votes, and if these procedures have been applied, and the results have been determined six days before the electors’ meetings, then these results are considered to be conclusive, and will apply in the counting of the electoral votes. This date, known as the “Safe Harbor” deadline, falls on December 8 in 2020. The governor of any state where there was a contest, and in which the contest was decided according to established state procedures, is required (3 U.S.C. §6) to send a certificate describing the form and manner by which the determination was made to the Archivist as soon as practicable.


The votes have been certified and counted by each state. All that remains is the Jan 6th counting.

Yeah, but does the Safe Harbor do anything to prevent challenges from Representatives and Senators in Congress on the 6th? I suspect it does not, but rather pertains to challenges leading up to the vote we just had. (Otherwise Congress would be removign from itself a Constitutional granted power - to settle disputes over electors -- through their own statute.) But I am having a hard time finding anything definitive on that -- the effect of Safe Harbor legislation on challenges brought in the joint session on the 6th..
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Yeah, but does the Safe Harbor do anything to prevent challenges from Representatives and Senators in Congress on the 6th? I suspect it does not, but rather pertains to challenges leading up to the vote we just had. (Otherwise Congress would be removign from itself a Constitutional granted power - to settle disputes over electors -- through their own statute.) But I am having a hard time finding anything definitive on that -- the effect of Safe Harbor legislation on challenges brought in the joint session on the 6th..
Perhaps you could quote the evidence that someone has given for this?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Yeah, but does the Safe Harbor do anything to prevent challenges from Representatives and Senators in Congress on the 6th? I suspect it does not,
That is partially correct.
The source that Mick quoted cites the applicable law:
Article:
3 USC Ch. 1: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND VACANCIES

§5. Determination of controversy as to appointment of electors​

If any State shall have provided, by laws enacted prior to the day fixed for the appointment of the electors, for its final determination of any controversy or contest concerning the appointment of all or any of the electors of such State, by judicial or other methods or procedures, and such determination shall have been made at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors, such determination made pursuant to such law so existing on said day, and made at least six days prior to said time of meeting of the electors, shall be conclusive, and shall govern in the counting of the electoral votes as provided in the Constitution, and as hereinafter regulated, so far as the ascertainment of the electors appointed by such State is concerned.

One of the issues that could theoretically happen is competing slates of electors, both voting and sending a certificate to Congress. But this paragraph says that if a State has settled its disputes by the Safe Harbor date, there is only one group of electors that is constitutionally legitimized to vote for that State; there can't be another one. That puts a hard limit on which votes can be read at the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. There is no way, for example, to count Michigan's electoral votes for Trump, because the only constitutionally legitimized electoral vote for Michigan is the one for Biden. That's the effect of Safe Harbor.

But that effect carries on. §6 regulates how the results of the electoral vote reach Congress.

Now let me quote from §15, which regulates Counting electoral votes in Congress on January 6th:
Article:
When all objections so made to any vote or paper from a State shall have been received and read, the Senate shall thereupon withdraw, and such objections shall be submitted to the Senate for its decision; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, in like manner, submit such objections to the House of Representatives for its decision; and no electoral vote or votes from any State which shall have been regularly given by electors whose appointment has been lawfully certified to according to section 6 of this title from which but one return has been received shall be rejected, but the two Houses concurrently may reject the vote or votes when they agree that such vote or votes have not been so regularly given by electors whose appointment has been so certified.

This means that if a State has certified electors, and they sent a single vote, then the only way for Congress to reject that is if they think that's not what happened.

Article:
If more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State shall have been received by the President of the Senate, those votes, and those only, shall be counted which shall have been regularly given by the electors who are shown by the determination mentioned in section 5 of this title to have been appointed, if the determination in said section provided for shall have been made, [...]

This says that if there are competing electoral votes, the one that has had the benefit of Safe Harbor gets counted.

Together, this means that all Congress needs to decide is whether the State had a process for settling election contests, and whether the State followed that process. If the answer is "yes", then that State's vote must be counted. Nothing else matters.

That section covers a few more eventualities, which I'd be happy to discuss, but maybe this is enough for you?

tl;dr Safe Harbor strongly limits what kind of challenge can be brought on the 6th.

(Otherwise Congress would be removing from itself a Constitutional granted power - to settle disputes over electors -- through their own statute.)
That's a misconception that I've also seen in the idea that a State legislature could meet, disregard the election result, and just send their own electors.

When a legislature has a constitutional power, it typically disposes of that power by making laws. That's what the Latin word "legislature" means: to bring laws. The purpose of law is to remove arbitrariness from the exercise of power; for power to be bound by law is what distinguishes a lawful rule from a despotic reign (and the idea goes back to ancient Rome). This is fairly obvious when you consider criminal law: life would be pretty difficult if you didn't know whether what you do could land you in jail (or worse), and it all depended on what someone decided on the spur of the moment after the fact. That's why every democracy sets down laws: every citizen is entitled to know what government can or can't do.

That's why Congress has passed these election laws: to make clear how it will dispose of the power that it has been granted by the Constitution. The fact that it made that law does not mean that Congress is above the law; that would defeat the purpose.
Specifically, the provisions I quoted above assure each State that Congress will count the presidential vote they sent properly. It prevents a Congress dominated by Party A from throwing out votes supporting a Party B presidential candidate. It means a State will be heard even if the majority of Congress is against it. (Securing the rights of minorities is another powerful cornerstone of democracy.)

tl;dr By using its power to pass a law, and then being bound by law, a legislature is not "removing" that power "from itself", it is exercising that power, and doing so in a democratic fashion.
 
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Jeffrey Orling

Senior Member
If nothing, this election has revealed how byzantine and crazy the presidential election is and by extension the entire election process in the USA. It is subject to the corrupting influence of unlimited special interest money infused.... the crazy "districting" known as gerrymandering... and the absurdity of the electoral college. There isn't even a semblance of one person one vote. And now we made aware of all the vote rigging and voter disenfranchisement schemes.

America really needs to completely overhaul the election process... and maybe do some fix ups to the constitution while they are at it.
 

econ41

Senior Member
If nothing, this election has revealed how byzantine and crazy the presidential election is and by extension the entire election process in the USA. It is subject to the corrupting influence of unlimited special interest money infused.... the crazy "districting" known as gerrymandering... and the absurdity of the electoral college. There isn't even a semblance of one person one vote. And now we made aware of all the vote rigging and voter disenfranchisement schemes.

America really needs to completely overhaul the election process... and maybe do some fix ups to the constitution while they are at it.
Well said Jeffrey. I've been trying to discuss those real issues on a couple of forums. Your thoughts and mine are very similar BUT I'm a foreigner and have run into resentment even trying to raise the issues for discussion. I suspect that going to the real causes will not be allowed under this forum's rules favouring narrow focus on specific topics. It is surely "off topic" for this thread so you may need an other thread.... unless there is one existing.

You concisely state two topics for sensible and serious discussion.
America really needs to completely overhaul the election process...
and
and maybe do some fix ups to the constitution while they are at it.
I agree both. Best of luck with the second >> I don't see it happening. So the best you can hope for is some "work around" regulations or protocols to control the worst excesses seen in this cycle of elections.

The two aspects which I suggest are "on-topic" for this thread:
1) The remaining remnants of the electoral college system. Whether States allocate their "slate" pro-rata or winner takes all the traditional ceremony is redundant. BUT the delay sees the President who loses a second term election being left in power for a couple of months.
2) I am aware of the Constitutional history and basis for the practice BUT "President" is a Federal role. One set of rules and one system of elections should be better than each state having its own idiosyncrasies.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
One set of rules and one system of elections should be better than each state having its own idiosyncrasies.
I think the problem is that the President is the only election that is technically Federal. everyone else on the ticket is a local election deal and each state can determine it's own rules and laws governing their local/state elections.

You could i guess have a day of just a Presidential vote, but many places put a ton of things on the down ticket because they figure people wont come out to vote for local stuff without the President on the ticket.

Also citizens barely know the state election laws. If they had to flip flop between state and federal rules depending on which election was happening, the human error from poll staff would be magnified i think.

.....

I'm not sure what your first point is (ie my comprehension), so if my answer makes no sense, just ignore. The incoming staff needs time to find apartments in washington, find daycares, order stationary etc.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
I think the problem is that the President is the only election that is technically Federal.
The House of Representatives and the Senate are also federal; and technically, you're voting for state electors, and not the President.

But the real problem is the electoral system. In no other country is the outcome of an election in doubt where one candidate leads the other by 4.4% in the popular vote, unless it's a banana republic; because no other country uses this system.
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
https://www.governing.com/now/To-Fix-the-Electoral-College-Change-the-Way-Its-Votes-Are-Awarded.html

The electoral college isn't going anywhere because it takes 2/3 of the states to amend the Constitution, and too many Red States would be voting against their own political advantage.

A proposed solution:

https://www.commoncause.org/actions/fix-the-broken-electoral-college/

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/12/electoral-college-trump-popular-vote-compact.html

 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/21/trump-house-overturn-election-449787


-Beyond reasonable doubt, this particular effort will fail.
-It's ambiguous whether any of these members of Congress really believe the stolen election narrative.

-Most - or all - are sending up "trial balloons," to see which way the political wind is blowing. So far they've found that, among their particular constituency, the wind is fair for autocracy.
-This is an indication of how far the process of anti-democratic radicalization* has progressed among the GOP Base. There's no indication that this process has stopped or slowed. On the contrary, the process of radicalization is accelerating.
-Big warning sign about the integrity of future elections at the state level - which will be much simpler to overturn.
-The first real test will be in 2022, when 34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election.

Will any of these be successfully overturned through ostensibly legal (but anti-democratic) means?



*
https://www.npr.org/2020/12/15/9463...onspiracy-is-mass-radicalization-experts-warn

Domestic terrorism is at the right tail of the curve. Far more people are becoming comfortable with the ostensibly legal form of autocratic takeover; convinced in their mind that they are patriotically battling forces of evil.
 
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JMartJr

Senior Member
T In no other country is the outcome of an election in doubt where one candidate leads the other by 4.4% in the popular vote, unless it's a banana republic; because no other country uses this system.

I don't think the "doubt," such as it is, has anything to do with the electoral system. If someone thinks, or wants to claim to think, that the outcome was determined by fraud, they would think so under either system, and would be challenging the voting somewhere, regardless. The only difference I can see is there would probably be a need (or opportunity) to challenge voting in more states -- I'm not sure that would be better than what we have.

I see pluses and minuses in the elecotal system. But I'm not sure what is happening this year is a problem with the system as much as a "user problem."
 

econ41

Senior Member
I think the problem is that the President is the only election that is technically Federal. everyone else on the ticket is a local election deal and each state can determine it's own rules and laws governing their local/state elections.
Thanks for the response Deirdre. But the point I have been trying to make -- without success -- is that IF the system causes problems - then the solution is fix the system. If the system causes either actual problems OR allows the appearance of problems the solution is NOT in defending the system. And certainly not in "blaming" one side of a polarised two party political system for "rorting the system". "How can we fix the system to make it harder for politicians to manipulate it?" should be top of the list of questions. I'm reasonably well informed on the history of the US Constitution, its principles and the administrative machinery of elections. So - on the one issue in this current post - I"m saying two things (a) The roles of President, Senator and member of House of Reps are Federal roles and (b) It would be better if elections were conducted under one set of rules. Yes there are more issues. Yes it may not be practical to change up to 230 years of developments deeply embedded in the "culture". So some factors may not be politically pragmatic to change. BUT the debate should occur...somewhere.

Therefore:
You could i guess have a day of just a Presidential vote, but many places put a ton of things on the down ticket because they figure people wont come out to vote for local stuff without the President on the ticket.

Also citizens barely know the state election laws. If they had to flip flop between state and federal rules depending on which election was happening, the human error from poll staff would be magnified i think.
(1) The problem mostly caused by not having compulsory voting... BUT I don't see USA changing that. So it needs a different work around.
(2) The voting citizens dont need to understand the "rules". They need (ideally) to put marks on a ballot paper and to know that it will be counted the way they voted. And if someone puts a machine between their signalling of their vote and the counting >> they need to be assured that the process remains accurate, transparent and auditable.
I'm not sure what your first point is (ie my comprehension), so if my answer makes no sense, just ignore. The incoming staff needs time to find apartments in washington, find daycares, order stationary etc.
A problem created by both system and culture. And a topic for a different discusion. Why does the US have political appointees in all the top jobs and change them all ? (I know the reasons and I doubt there is a simple answer - so I'll take a "rain check".
 
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econ41

Senior Member
But the real problem is the electoral system. In no other country is the outcome of an election in doubt where one candidate leads the other by 4.4% in the popular vote, unless it's a banana republic; because no other country uses this system.
The central point I have tried to make without - in my case - making it - a claim "Our Australian system is better".

I don't want to get into "ours is better than yours" debates OR into the US "Democrats versus Republicans" debate BUT...

... the losing "side" of this US election has been behaving in ways that are - put very mildly - uncivil, dishonest and not in the best interests of the Democratic traditions of the US. The basis for "funny games" and "naughtiness" has been there but recent years an months have seen less constraint than previous administrations or elections.

I trust those comments are sufficinetly diplomatic but get the point across. There is need for a debate about systemic problems in addition to debate of current events. And I'm aware of the strict "on topic" rules of this forum.
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
I see pluses and minuses in the elecotal system. But I'm not sure what is happening this year is a problem with the system as much as a "user problem."
What are the pluses?

Every presidential election, just a few states are the ones that seem to decide the election, and that's where the campaigns concentrate their effort. If you could pick up your winning million votes anywhere, you'd have to campaign to everywhere and consider everyone. That's the systematic problem being exploited this year: the idea that you can swing an election by faking a few ten thousand votes when it should've been decided by several million.
This property of the system enabled Florida 2000 and "the Kraken" 2020.

With 50 states, you're always going to have a close race in some states even if the race isn't close nationwide. You're creating drama artificially as a property of the system.

The electoral college solved the problem of holding an election in a huge union of states that each feared for their independence, and where travel could take weeks and messages could take days. Times have changed.
 

econ41

Senior Member
You're creating drama artificially as a property of the system.
Yes. and the "system" does not have adequate barriers to limit drama and controversy.
The electoral college solved the problem of holding an election in a huge union of states that each feared for their independence, and where travel could take weeks and messages could take days. Times have changed.
Yes. And the outdated remnants of the electoral college system are only part of the systemic weaknesses.
Times have changed.
~230 years of interaction between "cultural evolution" and "mechanisms, systems and legal interpretation".

Key features are past their "use by date" and it wont be easy to change them.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The other astonishing thing for an outside observer is that Deirdre is right when she thinks of these elections as local elections. Anywhere else, elections to federal offices are governed by federal rules. But in the US, a state can decide that people who haven't paid their court fines must not vote for President, and then that's what happens in that state. This setup was a necessity to sidestep the controversy of slaves not voting, but today it just feels unnecessarily unequal and unfair.
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
The real reason we have an electoral college

https://time.com/4558510/electoral-college-history-slavery/

 

deirdre

Senior Member.
But in the US, a state can decide that people who haven't paid their court fines must not vote for President, and then that's what happens in that state. This setup was a necessity to sidestep the controversy of slaves not voting, but today it just feels unnecessarily unequal and unfair

it goes the other way too. the feds can outlaw marijuana and States can overvote that. same with abortion laws, some states make them more strict then federal law, and some states make them less strict then fed law.

I'm not sure there is anything to suggest the federal law on felon voting would not be: they have to fully serve their sentence first (which includes probation and fees). Many states now are more lenient then that.
 
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Hevach

Senior Member.
it goes the other way too. the feds can outlaw marijuana and States can overvote that. same with abortion laws, some states make them more strict then federal law, and some states make them less strict then fed law.

I'm not sure there is anything to suggest the federal law on felon voting would not be: they have to fully serve their sentence first (which includes probation and fees). Many states now are more lenient then that.
There is no federal disenfranchisement in the US, only state.

States cannot have a law that is less restrictive than the federal version, because both levels are in full force under their separate court systems, if a state legalizes an act but it remains illegal at the federal level residents of that state can still be prosecuted in federal court.

You mention marijuana, but that's a house of cards - medical marijuana is protected by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, but that has to be reauthorized every year with the annual budget or it goes away. Recreational use is a house of cards - the Cole Memorandum from 2013 says that the Justice Department should limit (but not stop) prosecution of marijuana crimes when state law is being followed, but that was rescinded in 2018 and no policy or law has put it back in effect, budgets and priorities have been effectively the only thing protecting the industry - a return to Bush-era enforcement of federal law over state and DEA raids on medical dispensaries and growers is potentially a memo away at any given time.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
States cannot have a law that is less restrictive than the federal version, because both levels are in full force under their separate court systems, if a state legalizes an act but it remains illegal at the federal level residents of that state can still be prosecuted in federal court.
yup. which is why the federal government making election laws could be problematic for those who want less restrictive rules.
 

econ41

Senior Member
The other astonishing thing for an outside observer is that Deirdre is right when she thinks of these elections as local elections. Anywhere else, elections to federal offices are governed by federal rules. But in the US, a state can decide that people who haven't paid their court fines must not vote for President, and then that's what happens in that state. This setup was a necessity to sidestep the controversy of slaves not voting, but today it just feels unnecessarily unequal and unfair.
True enough but take the next steps. Ask "Does status quo cause or allow problems to emerge?" I think the answer is "Yes!". THEN "Can something be done to reduce the problems?" and "Are the benefits worth the effort and what changes are even achievable?"

So - the first issue mentioned "SHOULD elections to Federal offices be Governed by Federal rules"? Current status of that issue as objective fact is those elections are NOT governed by Federal Rules. That is fact whatever the history. (And I'm aware of the reasons of constitutional philosophy and pragmatics of the era when the choice was made.)

But back to the current status of the issues. (a) Do problems arise from different State rules? >> I suggest yes and we could list them and discuss them. (b) What is the cost/benefit and plausibility of changing from state to federal rules.

And that first issue is only one of many which are evident to an "outside observer". There are many and they range widely in terms of level of problems they cause and whether they are easy or difficult to change. And those problem causing issues are tied to Constitutional provisions. Some very deeply embedded and close to impossible to change. Others possibly could be changed. It should be feasible to adjust many of the shortcomings of the election system by administrative procedural reforms. << THAT is the level where I'm suggesting the there is a need for debate. And the debate should be led by Americans who would need to avoid "trees v forests syndrome" - the problems of getting lost in detail and losing the big picture plot.

And I'm very aware that we are drifting off the topic - this should be a separate thread. Preferably NOT OPed by an Australian. ;)
 
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