Ask the Experts: Mr. Davis and Mrs. Rupley

An interview with A.P Government teacher CJ Davis and U.S History teacher LeeAnn Rupley concerning the events at the U.S Capitol on Jan 6.

Marian Raya Paredes, Staff Writer

On Jan. 6, the U.S Capitol was attacked by a mob of Donald Trump supporters attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. We asked two FHS teachers to provide their informed analysis and offer historical perspective, as well as give insight to the most pressing challenges facing our government today. LeeAnn Rupley has received a B.A. in History, two single-subject teaching credentials in Social Science and English, and a M.A in Education. CJ Davis has received a B.A in Social Science and currently teaches World History, A.P Psychology, A.P U.S Government, and A.P Macroeconomics. 

 

Foothill Forum: Are there any comparable events in American history to what happened on Jan 6, 2021?

 

Rupley: Not really. There has been violence in response to political events (for example John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry that was triggered by pro-slavery events). There has never been a transition of presidential power that was anything but peaceful.

 

Davis: The major comparison that I could make to the events of January 6th would be to the events that took place during the War of 1812. Two years into the war, the British army raided the D.C. area, and while doing so they burned down government infrastructure like the Capitol building and even the White House. Now, this is definitely an extreme comparison, we were at war, and those responsible were from a foreign nation, but this was the last instance of the Capitol being breached or invaded.

 

Forum: There were a number of Republican Senators and Representatives who challenged the certification of States electors? What was their basis for doing so?

 

Rupley: From what I understand, some Republican congresspeople chose to support President Trump’s accusations that the election was “rigged” or the results fraudulent. Specific instances were cited in a series of lawsuits filed by the President’s legal team, and investigated. No evidence was found by the courts of any fraud. Republican Congresspeople were allowed to voice their concerns during the certification process (both before and after the session was interrupted). The process of certification exists for this very reason, so that concerns can be addressed.

 

Davis: The common argument amongst those who wanted to challenge the election certification was that there was evidence of fraud in multiple stages of the election. Some of these claims include malfunctioning voting machines, votes being cast by deceased Americans, votes being dumped, and fake votes being manufactured on election night. A large majority of these claims have been disputed by the governing bodies in charge of making sure American elections are fair and accurate. These disputes have been confirmed by courts across the country, and many can also be debunked simply by looking at data available to the public.

 

Does Congress have the legal power to overturn or refuse to certify states’ election results? Explain.

 

Rupley: The Electoral Count Act of 1887 covers that- see, history is important! In a nutshell, the act states that objections to individual state returns (meaning electoral college votes) must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours. The two houses then vote separately to accept or reject the objection. They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes. An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded. Given these legal requirements, there was no chance that congress would exclude any of the state’s votes in this case. They legally could, if there was compelling evidence that persuaded enough members of congress that election laws had been broken. Even then, throwing out the entire set of votes from a whole state, or two, would not have resulted in a different election outcome.

 

Davis: No matter the circumstances, Congress has always been responsible for officially certifying the election results that have already been certified by the states. In most instances, this meeting of Congress is seen as symbolic, and would not have the extensive news coverage we are seeing currently. In previous years, Congress would simply meet, certify each state’s votes without issue, and then announce the results to the country. Members of both houses have a right to object to the results of any state. If there is an objection, fellow members of Congress vote on the objection itself. Only if a majority in both houses agree to the objection will the electors for the given state be replaced with new electors for a revote. So in short, yes, Congress does have legal authority to block certification, but it is an extensive process with limited likelihood of succeeding.

 

Forum: Have there been other instances in U.S history where the states’ votes were not certified in Congress? What happened in those cases?

 

Rupley: The act mentioned above was a result of a contested election in 1876 between Tilden and Hayes. It’s important to note this election was essentially a referendum on Reconstruction, and Hayes being selected as president was because he agreed to remove Federal troops from the South, an action that led to the rise of Jim Crow Laws and a segregated south. Congress compromised and worked out a deal in 1876, then passed the act in 1877 to try to prevent such a situation from happening in the future.

 

Davis: There are plenty of examples of objections to vote certification in Congress. In more recent history, the 2001 election was contested by Democrats who objected against the votes of Florida electors, but it was not a successful objection. In the election of 1876 there was contention relating to electors from Southern states (this was after the Civil War). After weeks of arguments, the Democrats and the Republicans struck a deal relating to Reconstruction, and Republican Hayes became president.

 

Forum: What can you say are the most important issues the U.S is facing today with regards to our politics and government?

 

Rupley: We are facing a crossroads. As a society we will decide if violence is acceptable as a way to try to make political change, or not. Issues? Our nation was founded on great ideals: Liberty, Equality, Opportunity, Rights, and Democracy. For nearly 250 years we have been defining and redefining and pursuing those ideals. That is still true today.

 

Davis: I think the biggest issue we face today in regards to government and politics is the divisiveness we have created. It seems too much today that we no longer relate to each other as Americans, but instead focus on our differences. We are still very young as a country, compared to the rest of the world. We as a nation have only existed for 244 years, and we are still essentially experimenting with how a democratic republic should operate. Other countries around the world are much older. They have experienced multiple civil wars, multiple changes to their government systems, border changes, etc. If we want to further avoid those trials, we have to come together, and work through our disagreements in a peaceful manner. Nothing is set in stone, and democracy is fragile. If we want to preserve ours, we have to do a better job of working together as one, united people.

 

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   Marian Raya Paredes, a junior, is a staff writer for the Foothill Forum.