Voters sit outside of a Snohomish County public meeting room to fill out and turn in their ballots on Nov. 3, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file photo)

Voters sit outside of a Snohomish County public meeting room to fill out and turn in their ballots on Nov. 3, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file photo)

Editorial: Don’t mess with elections; honor will of voters

A GOP challenge in Congress and proposed state legislation are attempts to disenfranchise voters.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Sometime today — or later tomorrow, if things drag out — President-elect Biden’s Electoral College win — 306 votes to President Trump’s 232 — will be certified in Congress, the final official step before his Jan. 20 inauguration.

The vote is supposed to be procedural, ceremonial, a formality; instead it will be turned into cynical political theater by some 11 Republican senators and another 50 or so GOP House representatives who — without evidence and relying only on allegations — plan to challenge the certification of electoral votes for certain states, attempting to swap out slates of electors pledged to Biden for Trump’s electors.

The attempt will fail. Majorities in both chambers are required to overturn the Electoral College slates made official last month in each state; Democrats control the House, and enough reasonable Republican senators are expected to stand against the maneuver.

Members of Congress, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., claim the purpose of the challenge is to empanel a commission to investigate allegations of voting improprieties.

Washington Post columnist George Will — who no one will mistake for a liberal lion — calls Cruz, Hawley and their followers, “Grassy Knollers,” after those who insist that a vast conspiracy, rather than a lone gunman, was responsible for President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. But in this case, the Grassy Knollers are motivated not by any nagging doubt regarding the validity of the 2020 election, but out of concern for their own political fortunes during the next four years, fearing criticism from Trump and the wrath of his supporters.

Ballots, in cases where races were close enough to warrant closer examination, were counted and recounted — by machine and by hand — before certification. No fewer than 59 legal challenges have been heard by scores of jurists, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and have been rejected.

If doubts remain among some voters regarding the validity of the election it is only because Trump and certain Republicans have fed and watered those doubts and now hope to harvest them.

The challenges, more than simply delaying the inevitable on Wednesday, pose a danger because they could incite violence among a few Trump supporters, including the Proud Boys standing by in Washington, D.C., who Trump plans to address from the National Mall’s Ellipse. But the moves by Republicans also represent yet another attempt to invalidate legitimate votes and disenfranchise legal voters.

Cooler heads, we can hope, will prevail and the drama ease after Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take their oaths of office. But that won’t end threats of disenfranchisement at the national or the state level.

At least two pieces of legislation have been proposed before the Washington state Legislature, which begins its session, Jan. 11, that — while couched in terms of promoting election integrity and representational fairness — are attempts to reverse gains made in improving election access and regarding the democratic institution of one person, one vote.

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham, has proposed legislation that would end Washington state’s all-mail voting system and send the state back to in-person voting at polling places and require voter ID be produced.

Under Ericksen’s proposal, mail-in ballots could still be requested but would be invalidated if they arrived at county election offices after Election Day. The bill would also extend the voting period and make Election Day a holiday.

Ericksen has said the reversal of the state’s election practices in place for more than a decade is necessary out of concerns for election security, citing the “disarray” in other states this election.

But Ericksen overstates the problem. Delays in election results for some states were because of the scramble to allow more absentee voting last year by states that were keen to offer voters a stay-home option that offered more protection from covid-19 than polling places.

Voting this election in Washington, as in past election years, went without significant problems — even after some initial worries about a new statewide software update — and helped encourage record turnout.

Those defending all-mail elections include Secretary of State Kim Wyman — who at the risk of redundancy, we remind readers — is a Republican.

“I’m proud of the hard work and thoughtfulness the Office of the Secretary of State and county election officials have put into making this system successful. I believe it has served as a model for other states looking to transition to full mail-in voting,” Wyman told the Bellingham Herald in November.

The second piece of legislation, proposed by state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, seeks to stand up an electoral college-like system for election of the governor. Somehow it’s not fair, Klippert believes, that a Republican candidate has not won election to the Washington governor’s office since 1980, as if the parties are expected to alternate who occupies that office.

Rather than elect the governor by popular vote, Klippert’s solution would distribute 147 electoral votes among each of the state’s 39 counties, based on population, with the office going to the winner of at least 74 votes. As with the national Electoral College, the winner would be the candidate with the most electoral votes, not necessarily the winner of the popular vote, which has occurred at the national level most recently in the 2000 and 2016 elections.

Again, Klippert’s electoral college is a solution in search of a problem. If Klippert and others want to see more Republicans in statewide office, the party needs to offer candidates with broader electoral appeal for those posts.

True, Washington is a blue state because of the majorities of Democratic-leaning voters in more populous counties, but Republicans west of the Cascades and in statewide offices, do win split-ticket votes, as Wyman — have we mentioned that she’s a Republican — has demonstrated in three successful runs for state office.

We may be stuck with the national Electoral College for some time to come, but there’s no reason to expand its reach to other offices.

Rather than attempting to maneuver the results of elections by encouraging disenfranchisement and discouraging voter registration and turnout, all elected officials should put their trust in the voters to make the right decision; and then honor the will and wisdom of the voters.

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