Amistad Project Director Phill Kline Applauds Bipartisan Deal, But Raises Constitutional Concerns

Amherst, Virginia/July 21, 2022 — Today, Phill Kline, director of The Amistad Project, sent a letter to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), reacting to their bipartisan proposal to reform the Electoral Count Act.

After sending the letter, Kline issued the following statement:

“It’s good to see a sincere and bipartisan effort to address the ambiguity and structure of the Electoral Count Act, which resulted in confusion and continuing disagreements in the 2016 and 2020 elections. The proposal has much to commend it, including its express statement that the Vice-President does not have unilateral authority to accept or reject electors. The authority to determine the electors rests with the state legislatures under our Constitution. 

“A key provision of the proposal, however, appears to run headlong into the plenary power of the state legislatures to determine the manner of appointment of presidential electors under Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the US Constitution. The proposal states that Congress will only recognize electors certified by the Governor. The power of the Governor, however, to certify an election result is dependent on a state legislature granting that power to the governor – and legislatures have the ability to remove that power. 

“The proposal does a good job of articulating that one person – the Vice-President – cannot determine electors, but then in defiance of the Constitution claims the authority to potentially allow one person – a Governor – to choose electors contrary to the will of the people and the legislature of that state.

“I believe we are all in agreement that the majority vote of the people within a state should determine that state’s electors. All states have passed laws to this effect and that should not change. A simple amendment to the proposal would resolve this issue and, I believe, be consistent with its objectives. Congress should recognize only those electors certified by a state in a manner consistent with provisions passed by the state legislature of that state.”

Mr. Kline requested to meet with the senators to discuss his insights in greater detail and advise them as they shepherd the legislation through Congress.

For more information about The Amistad Project, please visit www.theamistadproject.org.