January 6, 2021
The election is over, and it has been for a while now. But you wouldn’t know it from the chatter in some corners of social media – or from the Twitter feed of the person with the largest platform on the planet. There’s a vast campaign, led by the current commander in chief, to sow doubt about the results. There’s a push to undermine the integrity of our votes simply because a few folks at the White House don’t like what the voters said and a few folks in Congress are willing to play along at the expense of the American people and our democracy writ-large.
It can, indeed, be confusing.
People are angry, their emotions ginned up by groundless accusations, unfounded allegations of fraud, and fruitless lawsuits. Now, we’re bombarded with breathless reports of a challenge to the Electoral College count on the floor of Congress, maybe even led by Vice President Pence – even though such a gambit has zero chance of changing the outcome of the election or the outlook for the inauguration.
In fact, this is virtually a formality: despite attempts by President Trump and his compatriots to undo the will of the public, Congress won’t change a single state’s slate of electors. The Constitution says they can’t; the only reason they even have a role is because our founding document requires the electoral votes be counted “in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives.” That’s it.
This whirlwind of swirling lies and half-truths is, to a large extent, the point: toss in enough baseless uncertainty in the air, at a relentless pace, and eventually it’ll enter the ether of our society, our news media, our culture, our dinner tables.
That’s as dangerous and damaging as it is shortsighted and shameful.
As someone who’s put her name on a ballot and served in high levels of state and federal government, I appreciate what it means to put yourself out there, be judged, and be accountable. And I have found that the best way to lead and to show true love of our country is to state and understand the truth.
Facts matter. So let’s be crystal clear about what happened this election, and where we go next.
Here’s where we stand: two months ago, Americans took their responsibility seriously and voted in record numbers. Donald Trump received roughly 74 million votes – to his credit, more than any other incumbent president before him. Yet Joe Biden received over 81 million votes, more than any presidential contender in history, and 306 electoral votes – the same amount Trump received four years ago.
Every election has a winner and a loser. In 2020, Democrats and Republicans won and lost seats up and down the ballot. While it may be frustrating and disappointing to lose, that’s the nature of the contest. To date, each case alleging fraud has been found by courts – led by judges from across the political spectrum – to have been without merit or substance.
Meanwhile, as Trump’s own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency affirmed, the protocols put in place to ensure a safe and secure vote worked. Constantly repeating otherwise doesn’t make it any more true.
Frankly, there is just no reality in which the type of fraud alleged by Trump and many of his supporters could have happened. Our elections aren’t perfect, but they are pretty damn good at ensuring one American, one vote. The courts affirmed this roughly 60 times, too. End of story.
Logically, that kind of massive undertaking to steal elections would have been impossible to hide. Republican and Democratic state officials would have seen such massive fraud somewhere along the chain of command. As for the men and women who staffed the polls and stayed up for hours to count and recount the votes, they were watched by members of both parties, as well as by the press. They did their jobs and made the country proud.
On a more emotional level, this is America — a country founded on the idea that the people decide and that our leaders work for us, not the other way around. It’s normal to question the process or want reassurance that the outcome is accurate. But if we have any doubt about all these systems, take a look at what one high-ranking, battle-tested state official said recently:
“We have some of the strongest election laws in the country, laws that prioritize accountability and clearly lay out procedures for conducting, canvassing, and even contesting the results of an election. We’ve got ID at the polls. We review EVERY signature … on early ballots — by hand — unlike other states that use computers … Bipartisan poll observers. Clear deadlines, including no ballots allowed after Election Day.”
That reassurance didn’t come from a progressive leader in a deep-blue state. It came from the Republican Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, no shrinking violet in the conservative movement. And it reflects exactly what happened in one state after the next: a clean, legal, extraordinary, safe exercise in democracy.
Now, it’s time to put an end to the court challenges, publicity stunts, and unsubtle coup attempts, and let our elected officials get on with their jobs. In the face of COVID-19 and mass economic displacement, we don’t have the luxury of continuing to distract people with unhinged myths.
This election ended. Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. We need to ensure, whether we voted for him or not, that he can do the job to which he was elected.
Christine Todd Whitman is a former governor of New Jersey and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. She is an advisory board member of the Voter Protection Program.