A version of this post was originally distributed in Votebeat’s weekly newsletter. Sign up here.
House Democrats in Texas walked out of the legislative session Sunday, shutting it down before Republicans could force through a restrictive voting law that they’d made even more restrictive behind closed doors. It was a dramatic move: In Texas, lawmakers can be arrested for breaking quorum, so Democrats trickled out of the room quietly, and five dozen of them left before Republicans noticed.
Lawmakers I spoke to speculated that much of the motivation for Gov. Greg Abbott to press so hard for the bill was his desire for an all-important Donald Trump endorsement, which he received this week — news made all the more awkward because the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman tweeted and the National Review (yes, the National Review) confirmed that Trump truly believes he will regain the office of the presidency by August. That’s loony tunes, yes, but also apparently true.
Writes Charles C. Cooke:
“I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be ‘reinstated’ to office this summer after ‘audits’ of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.”
There is, of course, no mechanism for this to happen. The Constitution provides no grounds for a president whose loss was certified by the Senate to resume the office, even in the face of actual, real proof of fraud and even impeachment. Joe Biden will remain president, regardless of Trump’s opinion on the matter. Republicans would like to simply ignore this delusional, dangerous behavior: They, after all, kicked Liz Cheney out of her leadership post for refusing to go along with them. They would prefer, they say, to just move on.
The problem is that they apparently do not care about the thousands and thousands of Trump supporters who do believe this and will not move on. The 2020 election did not lead to a peaceful transition of power: Nearly 150 police officers were injured and five people died on Jan. 6, and there is — to this very day — a man living in Florida claiming to be the legitimate president of the United States. This does not happen in a healthy Democracy, and until Republicans are willing to say that out loud, and not simply fret about it in backroom discussions or in on off-the-record comments to reporters, there is no healing it.
It should be troubling for us all that a man with no formal ties to any elected office and who is perpetuating his own fraud on the American people has so much influence over voting policy, but he does. Democrats in Texas have stalled that influence by walking out of the session, but that bill will be back, and there will be little Democrats can do to stop it.
Now, for some history. There is no basis for a president to re-enter office after leaving, because the founders never envisioned a president would attempt to retain power after being voted out. There isn’t even guidance for what to do if a president were to refuse to leave — the founders didn’t anticipate it would ever happen. Jeffery A. Engel with the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University puts it this way: “They couldn’t fathom two things: a person who had become president who was so utterly lacking in classical virtue that they would deign or dare to put their own interests above the unity of the country. And the second thing is, I think they couldn’t fathom how any president who would so vividly display disdain for the unity of the country, and mock and undermine the legitimacy of American democracy, why that person [wouldn’t have] already been impeached and removed from office.”
And for more than 240 years, they were right. Presidents who had a far better claim to victory — such as Andrew Jackson or Al Gore — peacefully moved on after the results were confirmed. It is typically comforting to find examples of something troubling happening before in American history, as a testament to the indestructibility of Democracy. But Trump’s crusade to force himself back into office is unprecedented, so there is no comfort to be taken.
Back to president day, but probably not better news:
- You can read more about the calculus that led Texas Dems to walk out of the session and what they plan to do when Gov. Abbott calls up the bill in the upcoming special session in my recent piece on Votebeat. “There comes a point where you just can’t take it anymore,” Rep. John Bucy, an Austin-area Democrat who serves on the House Elections Committee, told me. We’ll have more on this next week, as well.
- This week, after months of relative silence, the White House finally did something about voting rights. Biden has pledged to fight “like heck” against restrictive bills in statehouses, and Vice President Kamala Harris will be leading the charge. Perhaps the time to announce such a plan was, I don’t know, before the vast majority of state legislatures ended their 2021 sessions?
- Noted law professors Guy-Uriel Charles and Lawrence Lessig call Sen. Joe Manchin’s plan to push the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act ahead of HR1 a “Trojan horse.” “We strongly support H.R. 4, and firmly believe that the Constitution, properly interpreted, would support it. But we are also fully convinced that a clear majority on this Supreme Court would invalidate H.R. 4 — even more certainly with Joe Manchin’s amendment. And because the reasons for that invalidation are so clear in the opinions of those justices, we are not convinced that offers of bipartisan support for H.R. 4 are in good faith,” they write on Slate.
- The FBI is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over campaign finance activity related to his logistics company. If you are reading this newsletter, you likely already know DeJoy is facing a dim future as the head of the USPS, and this investigation could be the first real flick of the dominoes.
- The GOP in Pennsylvania appears split over whether to repeat an Arizona-style “audit” of the state’s 2020 results. Three representatives want one, one so far has said no thanks. “The people overwhelmingly want an audit,” Sen. Doug Mastriano told the AP. “I think just a county or two would do. My preference would be a Democrat and a Republican county and let the chips fall where they may.”
- North Carolina’s Surry County has banned the sale or distribution of Coca-Cola products in government offices in response to the company’s loud opposition to Georgia’s voting law, passed this year.
- New Mexico’s governor, doing the opposite of Florida’s, has signed a bill into law that will permanently expand vote by mail to all registered voters.
- Ballot images are now public records in Georgia, available for anyone to see for themselves if they request access and pay relevant fees at their county elections office.
- Ranked-choice voting is having a moment. Alaska has set up a mock ranked-choice primary so that voters can test out the new method, pitting seafood against seafood. Ranked-choice is also in the spotlight in New York City, which will conduct its first primary using this system of voting on June 22. The change means the winner of the mayoral primary might not be determined until mid-July. Meanwhile, some City Council candidates held a small rally this week to oppose an attempt to repeal NYC’s ranked-choice system.
- Hart Intercivic and Microsoft have announced a partnership. The voting machine company, based in Texas, will be the first to implement ElectionGuard, Microsoft’s secure software for casting and counting ballots. The software was made for use in existing voting machines, and produces auditable paper backups. It also features a tracking tool that allows a voter to see if their ballot has been counted. It is a huge step forward for Microsoft — the open question was whether voting machine manufacturers would want to use this software at all. One company, at least, does.
- The Connecticut Legislature has voted to allow Connecticut residents to decide whether they’d like to implement no-excuse absentee voting in the state — but the measure did not get enough votes to make it onto the ballot next year. If it passes the legislature again next year, the referendum will be on the 2024 ballot.
- New Jersey, facing a massive poll worker shortage, has voted to double poll worker pay to $400 for the June 8 primary. Cha-ching!
Next for some comfort food, brought to us by Gabriel Sterling, the COO and CFO for the Georgia secretary of state. Sterling’s talents don’t stop at snappy press conferences: He’s also a hell of a chef. If you followed the 2020 election, you know his job was a bit stressful.
Cooking, which Sterling says he has always loved, acted as a pressure release. “I can’t recall a time I didn’t cook,” he said. When he was a kid, he was big on cooking breakfast: eggs, bacon, grits. He’s improved just a bit since his youth, and now makes his own bacon from scratch. At left is a prepped pork belly, which he’ll be putting in the smoker today. Can you just hear the sizzling?
Sterling likes following the steps of cooking — building on flavors, creating totally new recipes with a few simple ingredients. “Like elections it’s a layered approach, and each step has to build on the previous step,” he said. “They are all necessary to be done correctly for the final product to be right.”
To ensure it is done in the rightest way possible, Sterling has vertically integrated. In his garden, he grows herbs like rosemary and oregano and veggies like peppers, zucchini, and collard greens, which he puts into his cooking.