Strengthening Our Democracy Is Critical For Maintaining America’s Economic Competitiveness

Strengthening Our Democracy Is Critical For Maintaining America’s Economic Competitiveness

All eyes are focused on the upcoming midterm elections and what issues will sway voters, but more of a focus should be on ensuring the stability of our democracy. A recent NYT/Sinema poll shows the voters are keenly aware of the challenge to our democracy, but economic woes continue to rank more important. Quite frankly, the two issues are linked.

The risks to the economy of a weakened democracy cannot be overstated. Unstable governments are considered likely to interfere in free markets and to be generally unsafe global investments. At best, interest rates would go up, making it significantly harder for businesses of all sizes to start and grow. If the United States’ ability to borrow money at low interest rates from creditors around the world is jeopardized, the effects could be disastrous.

While this is a complicated issue, there is work to do to reduce polarization and build consensus. Congress has the opportunity to make progress by passing a crucial piece of legislation. Regardless of the election outcome, the 117th Congress should not adjourn without passing legislation to modernize the Electoral Count Act of 1887, an effort which has garnered bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. This legislation does not target Republicans or Democrats; it targets those who would undermine our democracy and is essential to keeping our economy stable.

The 2020 presidential election and its aftermath pressure-tested our democratic institutions like no other modern election has done. Given how mistrust in our elections could destabilize the economy, the business community took unprecedented steps to endorse the legitimacy of the electoral results and condemn the January 6th insurrection that followed.

Business leaders, like the American public and consumers they serve, recognize that our democracy is fragile, with 83% indicating they are concerned about the health of the US democracy in recent polling. Perhaps more than others, we need them to recognize their ability to make sure we are on a path to rebuild trust in institutions that have allowed us to build the greatest economy on this planet. “The future of our republic relies upon effective election administration, public trust in the results, and the peaceful transfer of power — and so do our markets and businesses. Our country cannot afford a constitutional crisis,” said Sarah Bonk, the founder and CEO of Business for America.

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Efforts to reverse the 2020 election and stop President Biden from taking office hinged on a last resort effort to force former Vice President Mike Pence to use the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to overturn the results. After close elections in 1880 and 1884, Congress passed this legislation to set an approval process for a state’s slate of electors. Yet under the law, just one Senator and one Representative objecting could force a vote on approving a state’s electoral votes. This approach has been used by both Republicans and Democrats in the past 20 years.

Fortunately, the January 6 insurrection failed and President Joe Biden was inaugurated two weeks later. However, still too manybelieve Biden’s victory was the result of voter fraud, and we are seeing more candidates being open to refusing to accept electoral defeat. In fact, 60% of Americans will have a candidate who questions the results of the 2020 election on their ballot this November.

“The aftermath of the 2020 election revealed significant ambiguities in our system for choosing the president that were too easily exploited to foment distrust and spur attempts to disrupt the lawful transition of power,” said Matthew Weil, associate director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Democracy Project. “This bipartisan Senate framework is a critical step for shoring up vulnerabilities, protecting election workers, and improving the voting experience.”

The legislation moving through Congress would modernize the rules for counting electoral votes and clarify that the vice president does not have any power to solely accept or reject electors. It also increases the threshold to raise an objection to a state’s electors. This proposal has bipartisan support, including from such unlikely allies as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer [D-NY] and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY], demonstrating its practical approach to modernizing the arcane 1887 law.

“It is common sense to modestly increase, as others have said here, the threshold for objections to the electoral count — so that Congress still has options in case of truly extraordinary circumstances, but we avoid an arms race where objections with almost no support paralyze the process every four years,” Sen. McConnell said when he announced his support.

The bottom line is that if the events of 2020 and early 2021 are repeated during a future election, our country and our economy will suffer. Business leaders should use their trusted voices in support of meaningful, pragmatic actions to safeguard democratic institutions. This legislation will not address all the threats we are currently facing, but it’s an important and timely step to avoid another catastrophic attempt to overturn a democratic election result. Congress can take an important step to protect our democracy and economy by passing legislation to modernize the Electoral Count Act.

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