In November, more Americans than ever before exercised their right to vote, participating in the civic sacrament of choosing their next President of the United States. Record-breaking turnout is cause for celebration. America is stronger when citizens make their voices heard by voting. The constitutional culmination of the 2020 presidential election is Wednesday, when the House of Representatives and the Senate meet in a joint session of Congress to certify the results of the Electoral College.
The Constitution promises Americans equal protection under the law and the right to elect their representatives. This principle is usually summed up as "one person, one vote," and it stems from a long history of balancing the sovereignty of states as a check against the federal government and vice versa. So, at Wednesday's joint session, in accordance with the 12th Amendment, I will join representatives and senators who object to seating electors from several states.
This will produce a very public debate that will highlight deficiencies in the election that could persuade enough colleagues and senators to reject the electors from one or more states. Make no mistake, I have no expectation that objecting to any state’s presidential electors will actually change the outcome. Even if there are new groundbreaking discoveries, no House Democrats (the majority in the House) are likely to reject electors. Consequently, this process will not change the outcome of the November election.
Nevertheless, I’m duty-bound to object.
In the 2020 election, several states intentionally dismantled election safeguards, while others hastily enacted new mail-in voting systems with lax protections. These laws and actions undermined Americans trust that their vote counted.
A free, fair and constitutional election requires that states properly secure their elections and count only the legally cast ballots of eligible U.S. citizens with a transparent and auditable system. Secure elections are foundational to sustaining our republic and anything less than the vigorous equal protection of one person, one vote undermines the confidence Americans must have.
For years, Republicans have sought secure elections by requiring voter ID laws and signature verifications that guarantee voters are who they say they are, even when voting by mail. Ohio’s absentee voting system works well due to such safeguards, and I’m confident in Ohio’s results.
However, states like Pennsylvania and Nevada made dramatic changes ahead of the election. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled – counter to state law – that ballots without postmarks could be counted even if they arrived days after Election Day. In Wisconsin, the seemingly robust ID requirements could be circumvented by simply self-reporting as an "indefinitely confined person." Other states, like Nevada, mailed ballots to every person on the voter rolls – many of which aren’t regularly updated. A more secure system would send ballots only to those who request them and provide proper identification. These loopholes, oversights and erosion of protections trouble me and millions of Americans.
Insufficient protections directly threaten the "one person, one vote" principle essential to meeting the equal protection obligations of the Constitution. The remedy here is outlined by the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, which puts this issue squarely within Congress’ jurisdiction. It’s also one of the reasons why courts aren’t hearing these cases: they are inherently political. In my view, the Constitution places them within Congress’ jurisdiction rather than within the courts, and that’s a good thing. Members of Congress are elected and must face voters who can provide swift accountability. Conversely, Supreme Court justices are appointed for life.
That’s why it’s important that Congress debate electors before voting on whether to accept them on Wednesday. The strategic attack on election integrity is straight from House Democrats’ "For the People Act" (HR1) playbook. It would federalize elections, ban voter ID laws and codify ballot harvesting. This "legally" rigs the electoral system so that fraud becomes difficult to detect or prosecute. Under their system, equal protection can no longer be guaranteed or proven. Americans have had a trial run of this regime in the 2020 election, and the results are in: 34% of Americans – including over a quarter of independents – don’t trust the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Such mistrust after a remarkable turnout misses a moment of magnitude for our system of government. It not only undermines the legitimacy of the incoming administration, but also threatens to dampen participation in future elections. Wednesday’s debate isn’t about any single administration. It’s about addressing widely shared concerns that deficiencies in election security have denied equal protection to millions of Americans who are confident that the 2020 general election failed to establish that one person, one vote was the law in every state and accordingly upheld.
America should not wait for 2024 or 2028 to address these concerns. In my view, the oath of office prompts a positive duty for every member of Congress to ensure that every lawful voter is assured that their vote is equal – one person, one vote.
This opinion piece appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer.