If members of Congress vote to reject valid presidential electors for invalid reasons, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. While we’ve never fully appreciated it until now, the ugly truth is that, despite a nationwide vote fenced with elaborate legal and technical safeguards, the president of the United States is actually elected on the honor system by 535 members of Congress.
Despite the unprecedented number of Republicans willing to uphold a challenge, the House is controlled by Democrats; in the Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, is trying to discourage the move. At least four Senate Republicans have pledged to uphold the election result: Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
So Trump’s effort to interfere with the Electoral College count is going to fail — this time. Nonetheless, this tawdry episode is dangerous because it provides a blueprint for the next time. And there will be a next time because it’s now clear that under the system of counting Electoral College votes, a party that controls both chambers of Congress can install its candidate as president regardless of the election results if its members have the political will to do so. [Continue reading…]