The Tragedies of January 6

Op Ed By Congressman David Rouzer

I hear from so many who say, “I don’t know who or what to trust anymore.”  Trust is foundational for any civilized society — and for a representative democracy in particular.  When people lose trust in our institutions of government, everything begins to break down.  Mob rule and chaos fill the vacuum.

The rule of law is only as good as our character and our ability as a society to enforce it.  That’s the reason why we have a government in the first place — to secure and protect our God-given rights and to protect us from mob rule.  It’s also why confidence in our elections is so critically important.  It is impossible to trust in government institutions if you don’t believe they are legitimate and serving the people.

What we all witnessed this week in our nation’s capital was appalling and should be condemned.  Based on some of the interviews I saw of those protesting peacefully, many have a deep-seated distrust of our government institutions.  This, by no means, excuses the thuggery and violence of those who participated in the assault on the Capitol.  They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Distrust is why 39 percent of this country believe the election was “rigged” according to a recent Reuters poll, including 17 percent of Democrats.  Some say that is because President Trump has said it was rigged.  I have no doubt that there are those who think that because he has said it.  But there are also many very smart, independent minded voters who have instinctively come to that conclusion on their own.

This brings me to the formal certification of the electoral votes of each state by Congress.  The debate January 6 was over a constitutional question.  A key reason why 39 percent of the country believe the election was rigged is this: the changes made by states to their election laws in the last few weeks and days leading up to Election Day were made by individuals and third parties, not by state legislatures, as the Constitution requires.  And many of those changes made fraud that much easier.  (Human nature is sinful, so it is inherent that every election has some fraud; it is just a question of how much.)

Those of us who objected to the certification of electors of certain states and then voted in favor of those objections believe those specific slates of electors are invalid.  Why?  Because those elections were not conducted based on laws passed by the state legislature and therefore are unconstitutional.  In fact, Pennsylvania’s state House and Senate each sent Congress a letter requesting we delay certification of their slate of electors due to irregularities their hearings have brought to light as a result of such changes.

Those on the other side of this argument read the Constitution to say that Congress has no role in evaluating slates of electors unless a state submits more than one slate from which to choose.  Both arguments are strong.

However, I find it unlikely our Constitution requires each legislative body to officially certify slates of electors if our Founders had intended for this to be a ministerial or clerical function.  Had that been the case, the Speaker of the House or some other governmental office would have been designated.

The objections made on January 6 were on solid constitutional grounds and deserve to be known and understood.  Unfortunately, the tragic events of that day obscured this constitutional point so central to election integrity.

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