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Concerns About the Certification of the Electoral College Vote

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 6, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DesJARLAIS. Madam Speaker, I rise to voice my concerns about the certification of the Electoral College vote.

First, I think it is imperative to highlight the importance of how our nation's elections are conducted. I have received many calls, emails, letters, and I have spoken to many of my constituents who are concerned about the irregularities in the 2020 election cycle.

Today, I have many concerns about our most recent election, but my objection is focused on one primary constitutional question around changes to election laws made by state officials without the approval of their state legislatures. This is, of course, a legal question, concerning the constitutionality of last-minute election law changes made by executive orders without the approval of the state legislatures. Article II, Section 1 includes the ``Electors Clause,'' stating:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

There is no question that changes in state election laws were made by executive orders without legislative approval (usually under the guise of COVID) to allow for ballots to be allowed after deadlines had passed and mail-ins and absentees to be allowed under far more liberal circumstances which created an environment that allowed ``vote harvesting'' and thousands of ballots to be counted days and weeks after the election--without the requisite standards of verification that we should expect for a secure election.

It is a valid constitutional question and I note a recent observation by Justice Gorsuch in an unrelated recently decided case between the Brooklyn diocese and Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York on unlawful forced shutdowns:

``Government is not free to disregard the [Constitution] in times of crisis. . . . Yet recently, during the COVID pandemic, certain States seem to have ignored these long- settled principles.''

All of these issues are just some of the concerns and questions regarding the 2020 election and were not limited to these three states. Many other concerns of voting irregularities have been reported across the country including fraud and government officials changing state laws without legislature approval.

These are serious concerns and allegations. It should be the state legislatures, and not government officials or judges, making changes to election laws.

The timing of these election law changes is also problematic. In some states, changes were made to state election laws during the year of the election. These last-minute changes only allow for confusion and chaos, as we have seen since November 2020.

From a global pandemic to one of the most consequential Presidential elections in our lifetimes, 2020 was a year of many unknowns.

What should not be an unknown are the laws and rules states have on implementing our elections. However, the actions by many state officials and judges, along with improper voting activities, have allowed the 2020 Presidential election to be called into question.

I do not believe that to be an unreasonable demand.

I am proud to represent the state of Tennessee--a state that gets the election process done right and should be a role model for the nation. In addition to our open Election Day procedures, Tennessee provides a generous early voting process of 2 weeks in order for people to choose a day and time convenient to their schedule. In unique circumstances, there are also a number of statutory reasons where a citizen can request a mail-in or absentee ballot by mail and have their votes counted as well.

It is a process that works and is fair and equitable to everyone in the state. It is not unfair, it does not suppress voting, and it provides an orderly, secure method for conducting elections and counting votes in a timely fashion. Everyone has the ability to do their civic duty with a minimum amount of effort--no drama, no long lines and waits, and a process that is free and fair to all candidates. Votes are tabulated, and results are provided in a timely fashion on election night. It's not complicated, we have done this for many election cycles now, and we did not change our procedures on the fly in 2020.

We are very fortunate to do things the right way in Tennessee and we did once again in 2020. Sadly, there were a few states that got it wrong and call into question the integrity of the Presidential election. It is ridiculous and unacceptable in the 21st Century that other states have processes that lead to a situation where it took weeks to have votes tabulated, vote totals remaining uncertain, and the numbers of uncounted votes being uncertain for days--and weeks--after Election Day.

I respectfully and vigorously disagree with people who suggest that the processes that were opened and expanded in 2020 in many states are not subject to fraud and abuse--under these new standards ballots are mailed on behalf of people, ballots are sent to the wrong addresses, and ballot harvesting is encouraged. And again, one of the biggest problems with mail-in ballots is managing this process in a way that allows votes to be counted and winners to be determined in a timely fashion. It should not take weeks to determine a winner in state and federal races, and the prospects of all future Presidential elections being undecided for weeks on end leads to uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the results and the fairness of the process.

It is absurd. Even if you accept that everything is above board, no one should sit here and say that this process doesn't stink. Election reform is needed and the mail-in process will always be vulnerable to delays and the suggestion that foul play is involved--especially with the evidence being presented. Widespread mail in balloting with undefined rules and limitations is a solution in search of a problem and is unnecessary to conduct a fair election in this country. We need a defined in-person voting process that includes early voting. We need voter ID requirements. We need a limited mail in ballot process that allows for absentee votes for military personnel serving overseas or away from their homes, people traveling abroad for extended periods, and those that have serious health issues that would legitimately keep them from being able to make it to the polls. Beyond that, people should take a brief moment out of their lives to show up and make an informed vote for the candidates and issues on the ballot.

Since the disputed Presidential election in 2000, this nation has spent billions upon billions of dollars for updated machines and processes, and 20 years later we are arguably in a worse position in terms of having a transparent process. There is no reason--NONE--that we can't have a procedure in this day and time to have almost all votes accounted for on Election Day.

We cannot keep conducting our elections in a way that does not provide surety and confidence in its results. We need uniform processes for our federal elections, and we need laws in place to ensure that all legal voters are given their constitutionally protected rights to participate in civic engagement, but not through a process in which votes are gathered and harvested without their participation in the process. Tennesseans demand this fair process, and I will always fight for it.

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