What this History Prof told students about the election not being settled yet

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The Election is Not Yet Settled

America just had another election and contrary to popular belief, it is not settled. America was founded on principles of law and clear guidelines for a democratic election process. Although the media has called the election for Biden based on the amount of electoral votes, they have no role in the actual certification of the election. Read the following excerpt from the 2020 Presidential Election Provisions document:

The Electoral College system was established under Article II and Amendment 12 of the U.S. Constitution. In each State, the voters choose electors to select the President and Vice President of the United States, based on the results of the November general election. Before the general election, the Archivist officially notifies each State’s governor and the Mayor of the District of Columbia of their electoral responsibilities. OFR provides instructions and resources to help the States and District of Columbia carry out those responsibilities. As the results of the popular vote are finalized in each state, election officials create Certificates of Ascertainment, which establish the credentials of their electors, that are sent to OFR. In December, the electors hold meetings in their States to vote for President and Vice President. The electors seal Certificates of Vote and send them to the OFR and Congress. In January, Congress sits in joint session to certify the election of the President and Vice President. In the year after the election, electoral documents are held at the OFR for public viewing, and then transferred to the Archives of the United States for permanent retention and access.

Danger of Political Factions

Though the mainstream media based their decision to call the election on the amount of electoral votes Biden received, mounting of suspicions of voter fraud must be investigated if America is to maintain election integrity. Whistleblowers from the United States Postal Service and various state election systems (including both Republicans and Democrats) have begun to speak to officials about possible fraud. This does not mean that Biden will not win, but it is important that he win lawfully, and our system is set up to help protect against elections being stolen. America’s founders had similar fears that many citizens have today – that political factions could tear the nation apart.

The Founding Fathers Feared Political Factions Would Tear the Nation Apart


Safeguard #1 – The Electoral College

To guard against this, safeguards were put in place. One of these safeguards was the Electoral College. The purpose of the Electoral College is to ensure that everyone has a voice. While some want to see it go away, it serves a very important purpose. When Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 but not enough electoral votes to win the presidency, she insisted that the election had been stolen from her. Many on her side took up the mantra of getting rid of the Electoral College. The issue here is that while many believe that the majority rules, or should, America was set up so that neither the majority or the minority rule, but that there would be a political sway back and forth to help provide balance. The presidency is therefore not a popularity contest, but a contest of counties. This is why votes are counted by counties. Although Clinton won the popular vote, Trump won won approximately 2,600 counties to Clinton’s 500, or about 84% of the geographic United States. This is the purpose of the Electoral College – to insure that everyone, even counties with small numbers of voters, have a say. If the Electoral College is removed then the presidency would be relegated to a popularity contest and it is foreseeable that a huge state like California could decide the election for the whole country. In a “worst case” scenario, this would be like turning America into the Hunger Games where the big cities maintain all the wealth and those in rural areas have to send out children to fight to the death for food. Clearly, the Electoral College is an important part of our process.

Safeguard #2 – Governmental Checks and Balances

But what about fraud? Right now there is a big battle for the election. Those on the right are claiming voter fraud and those on the left are claiming that their accusations have no basis in fact. This is why we have governmental checks and balances with 3 branches of government. Fraud accusations must be investigated to preserve the integrity of American elections. We have a judicial branch for just such an occasion. In court cases, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. If the prosecution (on the right) can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense (on the left) engaged in fraud then the courts are there to make sure that those guilty are held responsible and that only legal votes count and that whomever wins has done so legally without “cheating.” Therefore it is perfectly normal for Trump to pursue that avenue before he concedes the election. This is exactly how the branches of government are supposed to work together for the good of the citizens. Conversely, if the court system does not see that any fraud existed and/or it cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt then Trump will have lost and Biden will have won. Therefore, those on the left should trust the system to work the way it was designed to work. For those concerned about judges activating from the bench and not following the rule of law, our Constitution provides another safeguard.

Safeguard #3 – The 12th Amendment – https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution

Should we get to a point where the incumbant believes that justice has not been served in the courts and/or the vote count was too close and therefore chooses not to concede, what happens? This is where the 12th Amendment comes into play. The 12 Amendment states that “…the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.” What does this mean? This means that the election goes to the House of Representatives and they choose the president. But rather than each person getting 1 vote, each state gets 1 vote. Therefore, if Trump has won more states than Biden then he remains the President. If Biden has won more states than Trump then he becomes President. While some may argue that this amendment is a secret, built in a way to exact a coup against any duly elected president, it is actually a safeguard that basically protects the integrity of the Electoral College. Both the Electoral College and the vote-per-state guideline in the 12th Amendment contain the goal of ensuring that the incoming president (or incumbant) is the one elected by the most counties so that everyone has a voice.

Safeguards Matter

Those who are not politically advantaged from such an outcome (whether in this election cycle or later) may argue that these safeguards must be changed or demolished, Yet even Hillary Clinton advised Joe Biden to “not concede the election under any circumstances.” While those on the right may chalk this up to “sour grapes” from losing to Trump in 2016, she is a lawyer who knows the law and understands the safeguards in the Constitution. If it had been so close going in the other direction (to Trump), Biden’s advisors/lawyers would be doing the exact same thing Trump’s advisors/lawyers are doing right now. They would be exhausting all their options before conceding, especially if they were concerned about voter fraud.

Politics is Cyclical and Term Limits Help

People must all remember that politics is cyclical. Politics in America is like a giant grandfather clock with a huge pendulum swinging slowly back and forth. Sometimes those on the right win and sometimes those on the left win. Yet every 4 years, we as citizens get to have a say in who our leader is. There is no other country on this planet that chooses their leaders the way America does and on such a regular, relatively short cycle. Historically, our government has gone back and forth on many issues and had dozens of peaceful transfers of power. Every now and then there is a bump in our collective political road and an election is contested. Yet when the process is honored and the law is followed, our democratic republic maintains its steadiness and we have a chance in another 4 years to choose again. It would be nice if Congress had term limits the way the Executive Branch does then perhaps the main two parties would not try so hard to hang onto power at the expense of the electorate, but that is a discussion for a different day. The pendulum must keep swinging, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left, for the grandfather clock to keep working. If it stays on either side for too long the whole system shuts down, which is exactly what happens when conversation is shut down.

What makes politics historically difficult is when the conversation is shut down. When people stop talking to each other and sharing their different views and why those views are so important to them they are at risk of alienating themselves and/or others. People are going to have differing views. That is what makes America great. That people can discuss them and explain in a civil manner why they feel a given idea is “bad” and listen to why someone else thinks it is “good” is at the heart of our survival as a nation. As soon as people stop seeing ideas as “bad” and instead start seeing other people as “bad” then refuse to engage in a civil manner the entire nation is at risk, especially when one considers that we have freedom of speech and thought. If a person is going to completely write another person off and have nothing to do with them because they disagree with them then they are forgetting that we live in America and people have the right to believe in their own ideas. The way to persuade someone is to keep the conversation going, not shut it down or resort to name calling or political bashing, or policing free speech. Only through working together can America continue to overcome differences and survive.

In Conclusion

So, regardless of how this election turns out, we will survive. We are Americans and that is what we do. We will continue to face challenges and meet them. We will continue to agree and disagree. Hopefully we will all find it in our hearts to keep the conversation going.