Editor’s Note: Joe Manchin, a Democrat, is West Virginia’s senior US senator. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
I was first sworn in as a United States senator on November 15, 2010, and took an oath to defend the United States Constitution. Standing alongside me that day was my mother, my wife, our children and grandchildren. I raised my right hand and placed my left hand on our family Bible. Then, I swore to “support and defend” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to” the Constitution of the United States of America.
I have since had the honor of taking that oath two more times upon being reelected to continue serving the great state of West Virginia.
One of the many things that makes our country great is that our Founding Fathers explicitly rejected the notion of swearing allegiance to any one person. Instead, they wrote a Constitution that commands our allegiance. Article VI requires that “Senators and Representatives … shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.” Every single member of Congress has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution.
When the framers gathered in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, they spent long and hot hours debating the future our representative democracy. These debates are well documented, so we know that among the topics debated was whether Congress or a group of special electors should be entrusted the power to elect a president. Ultimately, the founders decided to designate electors to be appointed by each individual state to elect the president. These electors came to be known as the Electoral College.
Every state, through its election laws, has chosen to appoint its electors based on the state’s popular vote. The founders believed that in electing a president through appointed electors they were removing the possibility of a corrupt election.
In November, Americans voted at rates we haven’t seen in 100 years and in December each state’s electors cast their votes. The Constitution dictates that each state’s electors must sign and certify their votes before sending them to Congress, where the vice president shall open them in a joint session of the House and Senate “and the votes shall then be counted.”
Once these votes have been counted, it is Congress’ turn to fulfill its duty, as outlined in the Constitution, and certify the electoral count, thereby officially cementing the voters’ selection of the president-elect and vice president-elect. Having sworn to defend the Constitution on which our entire democracy hinges, every senator is counting electoral votes not as a Republican or Democrat, but as a senator who has sworn to support and defend the Constitution.
Our Constitution clearly defines this process. Let me be clear, the current partisan push to reject the election results is an effort to overturn the will of the people, and it is unconstitutional.
The Constitution ensures us a government built upon the consent of the governed, but only for so long as we take care to respect the will of the people.
When Benjamin Franklin was asked whether the Constitutional Convention had given us “a republic or a monarchy,” he famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” He qualified his answer because he understood that democracy is fragile and can be lost if we are not careful. Our democracy cannot be taken for granted.
The American people have clearly expressed their will. It is now for Congress, their constitutionally elected representatives, to do our job and put their will into motion. As Abraham Lincoln said, that much is “due to the people, both on principle, and under the Constitution.”