There have been a number of letters written from folks, who almost certainly did not vote for Rep. Mike Garcia, critical of his support of the objections filed by members of Congress to the Electoral College votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania under the 1887 Electoral Count Act. Some even went so far as to question the money spent for his education at the U.S. Naval Academy, apparently willing to overlook his service as a naval pilot that included 30 combat missions. Others have called for him to resign.
The 1887 Electoral Count Act provides the method for members of Congress to raise, and for Congress to determine, objections to slates of electors from individual states. The objections to the Arizona and Pennsylvania election results, (neither of which was filed by Garcia), were made in writing by one congressman and one senator as required by the act. The objections were debated and voted on, again as provided by the act. No other written objections consistent with the provisions of the act were made.
The central premise of the letters is that there is no basis for the objections and all courts who have considered the “issue” have rejected the complaints on the merits. Both beliefs are incorrect. I doubt the letter writers have read the decisions they rest their belief on, because if they had they would know a substantial number of the decisions rest on procedural rules, such as the doctrine of laches — they should have been filed before the election and so were filed too late — not on the basis that the objections lacked merit. They also overlook the inconvenient fact that undecided petitions are pending before the Supreme Court on a number of objections, and at least one court found that executives in Pennsylvania exceeded their authority when they unilaterally changed voting rules. The petitions assert that changes were made in the election process by officials and courts (in response to some of the hundreds of Democrat-filed pre-election lawsuits) that were contrary to the laws of the states involved and thus violated the Constitution, which provides that election rules for selection of presidential electors are to be set by state legislatures. There is no issue but that such changes were made in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
However, the most important issue with these letters is they seek to punish Garcia for engaging in a procedure that is embedded in our law concerning the peaceful transfer of power, the Election Count Act. These rules allow discussion of an issue of importance to our election process so disputes can be resolved peacefully, and we the people, not just the people who voted for the successful candidate, can know our concerns were at least aired. With approximately 40% of the population concerned that the election was improper, it is more important than ever that this process be honored. Yes, for that reason Garcia’s actions were on behalf of all members of the 25th District. It allowed all voices to be recognized and the concerns of all to be considered and debated by our elected officials. The stifling of the process, the squelching of free speech and open debate does more harm than good, and fosters violence. So the reaction of one letter writer that this paper should not publish conservative opinions is exactly the wrong thing to do, although consistent with her view of Garcia. The First Amendment’s protection of free speech and open debate in our legislatures is essential to the survival of our republic.
You may not always like what you hear — goodness knows I don’t — but our response must be to counter speech with speech, not by denying people, by coercion, official or unofficial, the right to talk. It is simple to put into practice — engage the merits of the objection, not the objector.