The “failed” election provision should be restricted to natural disasters or terrorist attacks — and even then, it should be available only if there is no realistic way of conducting the election. Remember that the 2012 election was held just days after Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast, and yet all states were able to conduct their elections in full. (This is another good argument for universal mail-in voting, which doesn’t put voters at the mercy of the weather.) The key point is that a close election, even a disputed one, is not a failed election.
Finally, any objection to a state’s electoral votes should have to clear a high bar. Rather than just one member of each chamber of Congress, it should require the assent of one-quarter or more of each body. The grounds for an objection should be strictly limited to cases involving clear evidence of fraud or widespread voting irregularities.
The threats to a free and fair presidential election don’t come from Congress alone. Since Jan. 6, Republican-led state legislatures have been clambering over one another to pass new laws making it easier to reject their own voters’ will, and removing or neutralizing those officials who could stand in the way of a naked power grab — like Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, did when he resisted Mr. Trump’s personal plea to “find” just enough extra votes to flip the outcome there.
How to ensure that frivolous objections are rejected while legitimate ones get a hearing? One approach would be to establish a panel of federal judges in each state to hear any challenges to the validity or accuracy of that state’s election results. If the judges determine that the results are invalid, they would lay out their findings in writing and prevent the state from certifying its results.
There is plenty more to be done to protect American elections from being stolen through subversion, like mandating the use of paper ballots that can be checked against reported results. Ideally, fixes like these would be adopted promptly by bipartisan majorities in Congress, to convey to all Americans that both parties are committed to a fair, transparent and smooth vote-counting process. But for that to happen, the Republican Party would need to do an about-face. Right now, some Republican leaders in Congress and the states have shown less interest in preventing election sabotage than in protecting and, in some cases, even venerating the saboteurs.
Democrats should push through these reforms now, and eliminate the filibuster if that’s the only way to do so. If they hesitate, they should recall that a majority of the Republican caucus in the House — 139 members — along with eight senators, continued to object to the certification of electoral votes even after the mob stormed the Capitol.
Time and distance from those events could have led to reflection and contrition on the part of those involved, but that’s not so. Remember how, in the frantic days before Jan. 6, Mr. Trump insisted over and over that Georgia’s election was rife with “large-scale voter fraud”? Remember how he called on Mr. Raffensperger to “start the process of decertifying the election” and “announce the true winner”? Only those words aren’t from last year. They appear in a letter Mr. Trump sent to Mr. Raffensperger two weeks ago.