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Former vice president and current Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence didn’t receive the warmest welcome from everyone down the road in Londonderry, New Hampshire, last Friday. Supporters of his former boss Donald Trump reportedly called him things like “traitor” and “sellout.”
“Why’d you sell out the people?” a man said to Pence while he was there for a town hall event, as reported by Politico. “Why didn’t you uphold the Constitution?”
“I upheld the Constitution,” Pence responded. “Read it.”
That is a useful suggestion from the former vice president, especially when so many people are quick to make pronouncements with self-assuredness matched only by their inaccuracy. The Constitution should be required reading for anyone claiming that someone else has not followed the Constitution.
Pence, as vice president and as president of the U.S. Senate, didn’t have the constitutional or legal authority to reject electoral votes as Trump wanted him to. Pence told the former president that, and continues to tell Trump supporters that. If they continue not to believe him, they should read the document. Here’s the relevant portion from Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 concerning the Electoral College count:
“The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.”
The president of the Senate shall open the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. That is what the Constitution says about the vice president’s role in the electoral vote counting. Despite the constitutionally, legally and morally shaky assertions of his former boss, Pence did not have the authority to unilaterally reject the electoral votes that Trump didn’t like. The Constitution does not give Pence or any other vice president that power.
Perhaps it is just as Trump is alleged to have said, and Pence was “too honest.” Perhaps he was just too familiar with his constitutional duties. Either way, Pence followed the Constitution, and some people wanted to hang him for it. Who was being treasonous in that equation? Certainly not the former vice president.
Mike Pence’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021 were true to the U.S. Constitution, not traitorous. As he rightly suggested, anyone claiming otherwise should take a moment to actually read the Constitution.