In this year’s local congressional election, the proverbial elephant in the parlor is Mike Garcia’s vote on Jan. 6, 2021, against certifying the Electoral College votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
In a letter he sent me in early 2021, Garcia defended his vote by stating, “After close examination and consideration, I determined that these two states abdicated their constitutional mandate…”
The pertinent question is whether the states actually abdicated their congressional mandate or whether something else happened. Let’s consider the Arizona situation, which contains a convoluted fact pattern and legal analysis.
Abdication means to surrender a right or responsibility that causes you to stop controlling something that you are in charge of.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution provides that each state legislature determines how the Electoral College representatives of that state are selected. Article II, Section 1 may not be administered in a manner that deprives citizens of their First or 14th Amendment rights, which govern free speech and equal protection. Whether those rights are suppressed is generally determined by the federal courts.
Since 1990, Arizona law requires that residents must register to vote no later than 29 days prior to Election Day in order to vote in that election.
But when COVID-19 struck Arizona, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, the governor took extraordinary measures that essentially locked down the state for an extended period of time. Although there was an exception to the lockdown for in-person voter registration, telephone registration and online registration, many voters were unable to utilize these exceptions and actually register to vote.
Two tax-exempt organizations conducted grassroots voter registration efforts in low-income parts of Maricopa County and the Navajo Reservation. They found that the lockdown severely impaired their ability to register voters and sued the Arizona secretary of state in the local Federal District Court, arguing that the lockdown deprived U.S. citizens of their First and 14th Amendment rights.
After the District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the Arizona attorney general appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a stay that ended the registration process.
Nowhere in this sequence of events did Arizona abdicate its responsibility to select electors under Article II, Section 1. Instead, there was a constitutionally permitted legal challenge in the courts to determine whether citizens were deprived of their First and 14th Amendment rights.
Therefore, it is hard to comprehend how Garcia could reasonably conclude that Arizona “abdicated its constitutional mandate.”
Garcia also claims that he merely objects to the process, but not the outcome. If Garcia is so concerned about process, why didn’t he condemn Donald Trump’s call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, attempting to overturn that state’s election?
Furthermore, Garcia’s vote was cast on an unprecedented day in American history when Congress was attacked. Over the past quarter-century we have seen a rise in political extremism. Garcia’s vote on Jan. 6 is an example of political extremism because his vote, like those of his Republican colleagues, was an extraordinary display of partisanship without regard for its impact on our republic.
Undoubtedly Garcia believes that his vote advances the Republican Party’s agenda and enhances its future prospects for political victory. But in a larger sense, his actions undermine our system by suggesting that democratic processes no longer work.
The Jan. 6 hearings demonstrate how our election process was attacked. Since November 2020, many Republicans, led by Donald Trump, have perpetuated the storyline that the election was stolen.
Unfortunately, Garcia’s vote and his subsequent explanation thereof contribute to this false narrative.
Jim de Bree