By Christopher Suprun

John Adams during the Continental Congress was reported to have said: “…one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.”  I suspect he would think the same thing about the Texas legislature.

Despite statewide problems with Child Protective Services, with school financing, and with stopping the sexual trafficking of teenage (and younger) girls, it seems how Presidential Electors vote seems to be the priority for our Texas legislature.

As one of the Republican Electors who voted against Donald Trump this past December, I obviously have a problem with this focus.  I outlined my concerns in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece this morning.

You can read it here:

Helen Keller once said “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Some days I believe she was speaking about the Texas Republican Party.

The Legislature is considering a half- dozen bills about the Electoral College. Lawmakers plan to attach some illegality to presidential electors voting their conscience.

These legislators seem to think that elected officials should put party over country. These legislators want Texas members of the Electoral College to vote blindfolded and handcuffed. Their actions are folly.

First, they forget their own stated legal jurisprudence, the Supreme Court case: Ray v. Blair. In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states were allowed to require a pledge toward a candidate. The ruling held that states could require the pledge, not the elector’s vote. What does this mean?

All day long until the November election, states may require a pledge from electors.

Thereafter, the actual vote cannot be forced. This was the decision of both the majority and the minority. The opinion stated “no one faithful to our history can deny that the plan originally contemplated what is implicit in its text – that electors would be free agents, to exercise an independent and nonpartisan judgment as to the men best qualified for the Nation’s highest offices.”

Independent and nonpartisan judgment is not something many Republicans like.

Our Founders had the wherewithal to consider populist tyrants. They devised a government of checks and balances. A Supreme Court is reined by the Constitution it serves. The president can be reined in by the power of the purse invested in the House of Representatives. Presidential candidates, and their parties, reined in by members of the Electoral College.

The Founding Fathers’ intent was clear with the Electoral College.

The Founders put the Electoral College in place to avoid the president we have now. If the Founders wanted an accounting procedure, they could have assigned votes. Instead they assigned persons to cast ballots. The Founders could have required states to assign casks of beer for their allotment of electoral votes. This might have defrayed inaugural celebration expenses. The Founders chose citizens instead. They chose to have citizens cast ballots in a secondary setting for a reason: They expected those persons to exercise individual judgment.

They wanted persons who would keep the new country safe from the fires of populism. They wanted the country safe from demagogues, those not focused on America’s best interests, and those who would try to profit off the country. Mr. Trump is guilty of all three, which is why I would not vote for him on Dec. 19.

Mr. Trump’s actions since his election have proved my point.

The state Legislature may pass a law binding electors, but it will have no effect. The fines proposed and the criminal penalties will not be an impediment.

In December and now, I believe Mr. Trump to be a threat both to America and to our democratic republic.

The proposed speeding ticket remedies would not have stopped me. Others too voiced similar opinions that they would vote their conscience. We would take the steps we did to do the best we could by conscience and the Constitution.

Further, Ray v. Blair makes it clear these requirements only last until the November election.

Thereafter electors are able to vote as they choose. Electors have never been prosecuted for thinking on their own. The Founders intended for electors to put their country first, not their party.

Why is this even a priority for this Legislature?

Lawmakers are having trouble providing adequate financial support for our public schools and competent protective services for abused children. With these Electoral College proposals, the GOP is showing its true colors.

Rather than leading with strong political philosophy, the party instead tries to bind electors or reaches for voter ID laws.

The GOP majority in the Legislature should put country over party.

Lawmakers should start finding solutions to real problems, rather than inventing phantom boogeymen by coming after the electors.

Helen Keller was right about blindness and vision.

These proposals show too many Republicans with short-sighted vision, hoping to blindfold voters at a time when voters most clearly need to see candidates – and consequences.

This suffered some of the normal editing that happens, but you get the point. Why are we working for parties instead of country in our state legislatures? This is insane and misses the point of why the Electoral College exists.

John Adams is right.  Three or more useless men are legislators.

 

 

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