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SCHMIDT | Congress: Reform the Electoral Count Act

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Being able to read a map is a good thing. Writing a map to overthrow American elections, not so much.

This past summer, my teen and I took a road trip. On our travels to our destination, we noticed that the highway was closed going in the opposite direction. I knew we should find an alternate route before we headed home. The problem was that my GPS kept trying to direct me to travel on the highway I was trying to avoid.

Once we arrived at our destination, I asked my teen to grab a paper map out of the glove box. She shot a look of horror at her mother, the dinosaur. (Any parent of a teen knows the look of which I speak.)

I used the opportunity to go over map skills with her, and we went on to write down the directions of the alternate route on a piece of paper. We arrived home successfully, without GPS, and touted the practicality of being able to read and use a physical map.

Few had heard of conservative lawyer John Eastman until recently. That is, until he associated himself with Donald Trump after the 2020 election. Eastman’s legal career started after he attended law school at the University of Chicago. He became a member of the Federalist Society and was a former dean of the law school at Chapman University.

Eastman also wrote a map on how to overturn our elections in six easy steps. Eastman wrote the two-page memo, which he shared with then-President Trump. The memo, which was published in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, “Peril,” listed a detailed plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to declare the 2020 election invalid and hand over the presidency to Trump. Trump and Eastman met Pence in the Oval Office in early January and tried to pressure Pence to intervene.

“Mr. Eastman said that Mr. Pence as vice president was ‘the ultimate arbiter’ of the election, essentially saying he had the power to determine who won, and that ‘we should take all of our actions with that in mind,’” the authors of “Peril” wrote.

Thankfully, Pence did not comply and completed his constitutional duty in certifying the electors, which made Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States.

Before the 2020 election, Americans used our “constitutional GPS” to certify our electors. The counting of electoral votes was all but ceremonial. Now there is a map, on paper, on how to overturn a free and fair election. This map is extremely dangerous to our democracy. Before Trump supporters rise in defense, consider the fact that the map is out there and can be just as easily used as a navigation tool by Democrats.

The University of Virginia Center for Politics, which has partnered with Project Home Fire, recently released new data. The results are a warning that Americans have lost faith and trust in our democracy.

Included in the dataset was a chilling statistic: More than 80% of Biden and Trump voters agree that elected officials of the other party “present a clear and present danger to American democracy.” This is further proof that the big lie of widespread voter fraud has done remarkable damage on both sides.

There is a way to reroute and get ourselves back on a healthier road for our democracy. That road requires reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

The Electoral Count Act is not particularly clear and has a couple of loopholes. The last thing we need is ambiguity in our election systems. The Electoral Count Act can be reformed with a few steps, including creating a higher threshold for electoral vote challenges, clarifying that only state-certified electoral votes are counted on Jan. 6, and the vice president’s role is truly ceremonial, and he or she has no power to choose noncertified electors over certified ones.

Amending the Electoral Count Act would require only a majority in both chambers of Congress and a presidential signature. It is time to grab our metaphorical compasses and reach out to our elected members of Congress with the direction of supporting reform measures to the Electoral Count Act.

Getting from point A to point B has never been easier with technological advancements at our disposal. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t get detoured from time to time. Reforming the Electoral Count Act can help America get back on track to a healthier democracy.

Lynn Schmidt is a columnist and editorial board member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


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Hypocrisy and lies from politicians are so rampant in Washington that hardly anyone pays them much attention anymore. Perhaps that is why our cynicism about so many things political deepens and why distrust of our institutions is pervasive.

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