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Trump and Republicans reject Biden win, expose weakness in US democracy

You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. President Donald Trump is sparking the biggest re-examination of the nuts and bolts of our democracy since the Constitutional Convention in 1787. How many of us had contemplated the ins and outs of the Vacancies Act or the proper scope of presidential power during a national emergency before Trump came along? Unfortunately, all this is missing some of the dignity of the original discussion and we’ve ended up with a sort of tabloid version of The Federalist Papers in which those of us concerned about American institutions don’t so much engage in learned debate as in frantically attempting to head off the next pending scandal.

Which brings us to the Electoral Count Act of 1887. Until a few weeks ago, this was one of the most obscure pieces of legislation on the books. The ECA governs how Electoral College votes are counted. In short, during a joint session of Congress, the vice president opens the envelopes containing each state’s Electoral College votes and hands them to two tellers from the House and two tellers from the Senate who read the votes aloud. Once all the votes have been read, the tellers add them up and announce the result. In 2013, the entire process took 23 minutes.

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