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Opinion: We can stop a future constitutional crisis with this reform

The archaic text of the Electoral Count Act requires reform if we are to protect our electoral process

SHARE Opinion: We can stop a future constitutional crisis with this reform
Donald Trump salutes on a large video screen above the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capitol.

A video of President Donald Trump recording a statement on Jan. 7, 2021, is played, as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2022.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

I’m a veteran and a social studies teacher, so I was horrified to watch the events of Jan. 6, 2021, unfold: the assault on our nation’s Capitol and the interruption of the formal count of Electoral College votes. As Jan. 6 committee hearings bring additional corruption to light, we must ensure this never happens again.

One could argue the Election of 1876 was stolen, given both popular and Electoral College results favored Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden. Three states submitted competing slates of electors, so Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes refused to concede on the grounds that, if disputed electoral votes from three states swung his way, he would win by one vote. Congress created a 15-member Electoral Commission to decide the winner. In a controversial 8-7 vote, the commission awarded disputed electoral votes to Hayes.

Congress recognized future danger and created the Electoral Count Act to resolve concerns going forward in 1887. 

135 years later, the act needs a substantive update. Confusing arcane language would be justification enough, but the plot to overturn the election results of 2020 and events of Jan. 6, 2021, make this urgent work.

Ironically, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, cited the election of 1876 in attempting to delay President Joe Biden’s certification as the winner of the 2020 election, disregarding the 1887 Electoral Count Act. I support bipartisan work happening to prevent a future constitutional crisis hinging on the text of the ECA and thank Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, for his leadership on this. I encourage all members of Congress who love our constitutional republic to support it as well or, as Benjamin Franklin warned back in 1787, we are in danger of losing it all.

Deborah Gatrell

West Valley City