It is usually just a formality but like many things initiated in 2020, there’ll be nothing routine about verifying the Electoral College vote count when Congress’s joint session commences Wednesday.
The usual mundane and procedural vote count faces an inexplicable challenge by more than 100 Republican members of the House and a dozen GOP Senators in support of President Donald Trump. Allegedly, Trump has even pressured Vice President Mike Pence, who will preside over the meeting, to overturn the votes which President-elect Joe Biden won, 306 to 232 over Trump.
The Constitution mandates that the vote count is verified, a procedural matter after electors officially cast their vote on Dec. 14, reaffirming Biden’s victory. Federal law dictates January 6 as the date on which the Electoral College votes are verified in Congress.
The gathering, which begins at 1 p.m. EST., proceeds with the vice president opening sealed certificates from states in alphabetical order. He then hands them to four individuals referred to as “tellers” – a Democrat and a Republican from each Congressional chamber.
The members review the certificates and then announce the states’ votes. If there’s no objection, the process continues until all the votes are counted. However, objections – which must be submitted in writing and signed by at least one member from each chamber – are expected to resonate throughout the halls of Congress. Once an objection is recognized, the vote-counting stops and the joint session splits for two hours of debate on each complaint. A vote to sustain the objection and dismiss the state’s votes occurs afterward.
To dismiss a state’s vote, the majority in both the House and Senate would have to vote to sustain the objection – both chambers must agree, or the protest is dismissed. Following that action, the joint session reconvenes. After the objection is voted on, the joint congressional session reconvenes and continues with the count. The process repeats if there is another formal objection to a different state’s vote.
As the Democrats control the House, and no member of the party has expressed any willingness to side with the GOP, experts predict that the collective effort will face defeat.
Republicans currently maintain a slim majority in the Senate but some of their members have taken a public stand against the objections.
The GOP-led insurrection focuses on states like Georgia and Wisconsin – specifically in predominately Black areas like Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Ironically, the first recorded instance of such widespread objections within Congress occurred in 1861, after Abraham Lincoln claimed the presidency, winning just 40 percent of the popular vote.
According to researchers at The Stanford Advocate, more senators followed their states out the door in December and January as states seceded.
“Some simply didn’t show up for the next session; others made formal resignations,” the newspaper reported. Crowds lined up in the frigid dawn to hear Sen. Jefferson Davis’s farewell address, during which he made clear he thought secession was justified because he believed Lincoln would end slavery.”
When the Senate reconvened, the remaining members had had enough. Sen. Daniel Clark of New Hampshire proposed a resolution to expel 10 senators on several grounds.
“They engaged in [a] conspiracy for the destruction of the Union and government, or, with full knowledge of such conspiracy, have failed to advise the government of its progress or aid in its suppression,” Sen. Clark remarked, the Advocate reported.
The Constitution required a two-thirds majority to expel a member of the Senate. Before that moment, only one Senator had been expelled, and more than six decades had passed since that time.
The motion passed 32 to 10; those expelled included two senators from Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, plus James Chesnut, Jr. (South Carolina) and Alfred O.P. Nicholson (Tennessee).
Within seven months, four more were expelled for offering aid to the enemy, including John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, whom Lincoln had beaten in the 1860 election.
“Almost all of the expelled men joined the Confederacy in leadership positions. Four died during or shortly after the war; when the Confederacy surrendered, four escaped to other countries, and two were briefly imprisoned,” The Advocate continued. “Within a few years, all had resumed distinguished careers, though none ever returned to the Senate.”