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Mon Dec 30, 2019, 10:49 AM

The case for letting senators vote secretly on Trump's fate

https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/29/opinions/secret-ballot-trump-senate-impeachment-trial-alexander/index.html

The case for letting senators vote secretly on Trump's fate
Opinion by Robert Alexander
Updated 4:54 AM ET, Mon December 30, 2019
"Robert Alexander is a professor of political science at Ohio Northern University and the author of "Representation and the Electoral College." Follow him on Twitter: @onuprof. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN."


(CNN)Donald Trump will go down in history as the third US president to be impeached. Yet no president has ever been convicted and removed from office as a result of impeachment, and it appears unlikely that Trump will be, either.

While no Republican senator has indicated he or she will vote for Trump's removal, prominent members of the GOP like former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake claim that at least 35 would do so if they were allowed to cast their ballots in secret.

Republican strategist Juleanna Glover has made the case for a secret ballot, arguing that it would be surprisingly simple to accomplish. She contends that it would take just a few Republican senators to demand a secret ballot on the condition that they would approve the rest of the rules governing the trial. Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, regularly points this out to his Twitter followers -- stating that it only takes "four votes for a fair trial."

The idea of a secret ballot, however, is contrary to the norm of transparency that would be expected for such a monumental decision. And it raises the issue of just how accountable elected representatives should be to American voters.

At the same time, members of the Senate have already stated the process will be highly partisan. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "I will do everything I can to make it die quickly," and added, "I am not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went further, noting that he would be "in total coordination" with the White House. This, too, is at odds with norms associated with the rule of law, separation of powers and expectations articulated by the Framers of the Constitution.

snip//

If a future president fails to obtain a majority in the Electoral College, the House would decide in a contingent election with no requirement that the commander-in-chief be selected through a public process. It seems that if transparency and accountability are not required in that instance, the same can be said of an impeachment vote.

However, while holding an anonymous vote may allow senators the freedom to make decisions they believe are in the best interest of the country, the need for trust, transparency, and accountability are critical in our current environment. Recognizing that senators would likely vote differently depending on the openness of their decisions is telling, revealing that the impeachment process of the Framers is deeply flawed.
In this way, Hamilton fully understood the need for the Senate to be free of political retribution in order to be an independent and impartial jury. This now seems impossible given how our politics have evolved.

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Arrow 29 replies Author Time Post
Reply The case for letting senators vote secretly on Trump's fate (Original post)
babylonsister Dec 2019 OP
Liberal In Texas Dec 2019 #1
mahatmakanejeeves Dec 2019 #5
getagrip_already Dec 2019 #7
Girard442 Dec 2019 #2
Laura PourMeADrink Dec 2019 #13
Girard442 Dec 2019 #24
Laura PourMeADrink Dec 2019 #27
irisblue Dec 2019 #3
Historic NY Dec 2019 #4
getagrip_already Dec 2019 #10
Raven123 Dec 2019 #6
bucolic_frolic Dec 2019 #8
DENVERPOPS Dec 2019 #23
aeromanKC Dec 2019 #9
Mr.Bill Dec 2019 #11
abqtommy Dec 2019 #12
MineralMan Dec 2019 #14
oldsoftie Dec 2019 #20
ancianita Dec 2019 #15
Qutzupalotl Dec 2019 #16
pandr32 Dec 2019 #18
dalton99a Dec 2019 #29
Javaman Dec 2019 #17
oldsoftie Dec 2019 #21
wnylib Dec 2019 #19
Takket Dec 2019 #22
onenote Dec 2019 #25
FBaggins Dec 2019 #26
fescuerescue Dec 2019 #28

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 10:54 AM

1. If the Dems can get a secret ballot rule passed, it's probably game over for Deadbeat Donnie.

Many repubs if they're not going to face retribution from the party might actually vote their conscience. Besides, a Pence presidency is going to keep the status quo for their draconian policies going anyway.

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Response to Liberal In Texas (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:12 AM

5. Sorry, but no. Here's why not:

To avoid removal, Trump needs senators representing only 7 percent of the country to support him

Trump could avoid removal even if senators representing 93 percent of the country supported it.



Politics • Analysis
To avoid removal, Trump needs senators representing only 7 percent of the country to support him
The House impeachment vote, however, largely mirrored what Americans in those districts wanted.

By Philip Bump
Dec. 19, 2019 at 12:02 p.m. EST

It is the nature of a representative democracy that people will sometimes be represented by politicians with whom they disagree. Ask a Republican in New York City how they feel about their representatives or ask a Democrat, well, anywhere, how they feel about their president. It’s the trade-off of having elections.

In general, though, the system works — in part because representatives generally reflect the will of the majority of people they represent. That was largely true following Wednesday’s vote in the House of Representatives to impeach President Trump. It will probably be less true once the impeachment fight moves to the Senate.

About 53 percent of the House members who voted Wednesday supported impeachment. Because each district in the House is about the same size, that means that 53 percent of the population of the country lives in districts whose members of Congress supported impeachment.


(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

To our original point, that doesn’t mean that everyone in those districts supported how their representatives were voting. Compared with Post-ABC News polling completed this month, the vote in the House was more strongly pro-impeachment than are Americans overall. Support for impeachment in the House edged out opposition by about eight percentage points. In our poll, support for impeachment (and removal) was three points higher than opposition.

{snip graphic}

In the Senate, where that vote on removal will take place, the picture is very different. There hasn’t been a vote on impeachment yet, and in fact most senators haven’t even stated a position on the issue. (Many, but not all, are declining to offer a position, acting under the theory that they are jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial.)

If we assume a party-line vote (which is essentially what happened in the House), 53 percent of senators would oppose impeachment — but more than half the country would live in states whose senators favored impeachment. (For these calculations, we assigned half of the state’s population to each senator to account for states with split-party senators. Independents were presumed to support removal.)
....


(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)
....

Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Washington Post based in New York. Before joining The Post in 2014, he led politics coverage for the Atlantic Wire. Follow https://twitter.com/pbump

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Response to Liberal In Texas (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:29 AM

7. there are two articles, at least one has to be public....

Otherwise the gop senators would vote nearly unanimously to acquit, and all could lay claim to the few votes convicting him if needed.

But doing it this way, where only the first vote is private, still holds them accountable on the second. If the first convicts him, who cares.

But I suspect they would just vote the same way in private. This is a gop driven argument to get them off the record sticking with trump. It might get a few votes, but not enough to matter.

It's there to get them cover they need.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 10:56 AM

2. If voting by tossing cow pats into a bushel basket...

...would get rid of Trump then I’m all for it.

Still, I can see how secret voting by your elected reps is problematic — unless you suspect that they’re being threatened with consequences beyond political ones.

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Response to Girard442 (Reply #2)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:05 PM

13. +1 me too! But how would it work? Numbers are still

counted. If 10 senators didn't show with a open, recorded aye or nay, it would be obvious they voted aye. Only works if ALL vote secretly right?

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Response to Laura PourMeADrink (Reply #13)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 01:21 PM

24. Probably wouldn't work too well any way.

Let’s say there’s a true secret ballot and enough R senators vote “guilty” to convict. Afterwards, barring some sort of secrecy pact, a whole bunch of R senators are going to come forward and say “wasn’t me!”

Process of elimination will probably be enough to finger the line-crossers.

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Response to Girard442 (Reply #24)

Tue Dec 31, 2019, 01:10 AM

27. So all senators would be secret??? Perhaps Flake snd

others are just speaking in rhetorical terms. If they didn't have to go on record with an aye, he'd be a goner. Not literally a secret ballot.

It all comes down to "what about me" doesn't it.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:08 AM

3. Has/Is the Senate Parliamentarian weighed in on this idea?

I'm willing to bet behind closed doors conversations are going on about this.

The vote for war and a vote for impeachment of Federal Officials seem to be the most public of all votes.

I, personally, would feel some more comfortable with the Parliamentarians' opinion

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:08 AM

4. Like a secret society vote....

the box and the colored marbles.

[link:https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_529014|]

[link:https://www.etsy.com/listing/639138711/antique-ballot-box-with-original|]

Robert's Rules of Order notes that the use of black and white balls can be ordered by passing an incidental motion to that effect. The manual notes, "This custom, however, is apparently declining."

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Response to Historic NY (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:35 AM

10. true that.. We have a town hall form of government....

All votes on anything involving town governance or regulation have to before the residents who appear at the annual town meeting. Very arcane rules, and most votes are public and counted by a show of hands.

But it is possible to raise a motion to hold a vote by secret ballot.

True, it's not the senate. But as a town that was formed before the constitution, we use many of the same rules.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:18 AM

6. What a sad commentary IMO

The author is not interested in protecting the integrity of the Presidency, but party control over the Senate. These are the times that test our character as individuals and a nation. Time to stand up and be counted.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:30 AM

8. If Republicans go for a secret ballot and acquit Trump, none will be accountable for their vote

All can claim they voted yea or nay based on the political winds for the rest of the year.

I say get them on record. If they acquit, they will pay, if you know how they voted.

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Response to bucolic_frolic (Reply #8)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 01:08 PM

23. Exactly

What will happen.........politicians are superb at covering their asses

We are wishing that enough will vote their conscience, which in reality is like pissing in the ocean and thinking it will change color....

WASF

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:32 AM

9. Cowards

History will show the GOP Senator's as cowards if they vote No. Political Cowards.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:44 AM

11. They all need to be branded by their vote and have it

follow them to their grave and become the first line of their obituary.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 11:54 AM

12. Right, we're gonna reward complicity and obstruction with a secret ballot? Not on my dime.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:14 PM

14. Even trial jury votes are not done by secret ballot.

Judges often poll the jury, especially when a jury is hung and can't render a unanimous decision. Further militating against a secret vote on the impeachment is the long-standing rule of accountability for one's vote in Congress. We always see a named list of who voted yea or nay on bills. A few votes in Congress are done by voice vote or acclamation, but that's less frequent on actual bills, and is most used for procedural votes.

It is most unlikely that the Senate will change its rules and have a secret ballot on the impeachment trial. I can't imagine such a thing occurring, frankly.

It's yet another proposal that will not be adopted.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #14)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:59 PM

20. It really is silly how often the most outlandish things are proposed as a "way out"

And most of the time the "solutions" wouldnt even be Constitutional anyway

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:14 PM

15. If Hamilton says they should be free of political retribution, then it's their responsibility to

MAKE themselves free of political retribution.

They are the coequal First Branch, and should rightfully decide on how to proceed to uphold their oaths.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:31 PM

16. A secret ballot is the only feasible way to remove the traitor from office.

A public ballot will keep him in power and keep Senators blackmailed.

We can worry about accountability and norms later. Their votes will eventually come to light anyway.

If your house is on fire, who cares if the firefighters have muddy boots? Put out the fire first. You can clean up after the emergency.

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Response to Qutzupalotl (Reply #16)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:42 PM

18. I like your analogy

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Response to Qutzupalotl (Reply #16)

Tue Dec 31, 2019, 01:36 AM

29. +1

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:35 PM

17. nope, just moving the goal posts. we live in a Democracy.

as such, a vote as important as this needs to be public.

by allowing the repukes a "secret" vote that only further degrades our already degraded democracy.

secret votes are something dictators love, because they can say whatever they want as to if there was a vote or not.

bottom line: the repukes are cowards.

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Response to Javaman (Reply #17)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:59 PM

21. Amen to that

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 12:51 PM

19. In today's political climate, Senators have

more to fear from the general public than from anyone in government regarding retaliation for how they vote. They don't just face the possibility of being voted out of office,, but of being stalked and shot by a Trump voter.

That's the state of the nation now. The thug mentality can force itself on the democratic process.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 01:00 PM

22. i don't think a secret ballot would work

when the chips are down, the GOP is drumpf and drumpf is the GOP. The reason the secret ballot will still fail is because they LIKE him.

might change the vote from 48-52 for removal to something like 55-45 but he'll still survive.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 01:23 PM

25. The Constitution makes it hard to keep Senate votes secret.

The Constitution states that "Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either house on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Thus, arguably, if 20 Senators demand that the yeas and nays be put into the Congressional Record, the Constitution requires it to be done.

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Response to onenote (Reply #25)

Mon Dec 30, 2019, 01:53 PM

26. There you go again

Why bring inconvenient things like the Constitution into the discussion?

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Tue Dec 31, 2019, 01:33 AM

28. This would let Senators lie about their votes

They could vote one way, and then proclaim to the public they voted the other way.

Certainly, it would then extend beyond impeachment votes. Eventually all legislation would be passed or voted down this way.

We would get Trump out a year earlier, and then have 100+ years of Senators unaccountable for their votes.

Not sure that's a great tradeoff.

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