The Mess Congress Could Make

The Mess Congress Could Make

If it’s close, don’t forget Congress.

In the current anxiety over the possibility of a disputed election, attention has focused most on the battle that could rage in America’s courts to count the votes. But Al Gore’s acceptance of the Supreme Court’s judgment in 2000 has obscured a more likely venue for that fight: Congress.

The reason is a flawed statute for counting electoral votes—the Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA)—combined with a political reality that was unimaginable just five years ago.

We have entered a moment of irrational partisanship. If the election is close, yet marred with violence or credible claims—on either side—of fraud, that partisanship will trigger a self-righteous and irrational response, on both sides, and likely together. Each will have its reasons for the actions it takes. Each will believe itself justified by the wrongs charged to the other.