On Thursday, the post-election narrative seemed to edge further down that path, as the Republican leaders of Michigan’s two legislative chambers—Senator Mike Shirkey and Representative Lee Chatfield—agreed to take a meeting with the President in Washington tomorrow.
Until that point Shirkey and Chatfield were signaling that they didn’t intend to second-guess Michigan’s voters, who chose Biden by more than 150,000 votes. But by taking the White House meeting, they indicated their possible openness to changing their minds.
Politically, it’s possible that they see taking the meeting as a smart move, showing unhappy Michigan Republicans that they’re on the president’s side.
But as a matter of statesmanship—and, legally, for their own sakes—they’d be smarter to cancel it.
The scheduled meeting threatens two kinds of danger. At the largest level, it threatens the system of democratic presidential elections: If state officials start claiming the right to overturn elections because of vague claims about “fraud,” our democratic system will be unworkable.
But in a more specific and immediate way, it threatens the two Michigan legislators, personally, with the risk of criminal investigation. (Hint – Bribery)
✁ The Constitution authorizes state legislatures to decide how states choose presidential electors. ✁
According to one school of thought, though, a state legislature could choose to set aside a popular vote if it doesn’t like the result and choose different electors instead.
This is a pretty undemocratic idea, as well as one that misreads the history of election law: the National Review recently described it as “completely insane.”
(State legislatures have the power to change the system for choosing electors in future elections,…
…but not to reject an already conducted election just because they don’t like the result.)
March 20, 2014
September 30, 2017