Before now, few American voters would have known that the sixth day of January following a presidential election year was important. That is the day on which the presiding officer of the United States Senate opens “all the certificates and papers purporting to be certificates of the electoral votes . . . beginning with the letter A,” as set out in federal law, which also provides for objections. Objections, notably, must “state clearly” the grounds on which they are based.
One has to believe that the authors of the Constitution and of the subsequent amendments and election laws indeed anticipated a time like the present. The detail with which procedures govern the selection of a president and vice president supports the idea that they were trying their best to assure a democratic process. They also made clear that the states, not Congress, choose electors and the manner in which they are selected. This left Congress in a role more akin to a court of justice, should objections be made. “State clearly,” the law says.
Clear is not a word that came to mind as President Trump and his legal representatives reacted to the outcome of the election with a blizzard of contradictory and unfounded claims of fraud. Sadly, many Trump supporters believe that their votes were stolen, because he told them so. This, too, is something that the founders and subsequent Congresses anticipated. Electors chosen by the states were intended to act as a wall to thwart the enemies of representative democracy.
The founders were closer in time to despotic rule, having just won independence from England, and, as a consequence, were remarkably prescient in anticipating days like these. Though the U.S. system has its flaws, and voters of color continue to be disenfranchised, it worked. That is something that Americans of every political persuasion can take pride in.