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Citing History, Sen. Cruz Wants A Panel To Probe Elections

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wants an electoral commission that will investigate allegations of fraud. There have been no credible claims of fraud in the election.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wants an electoral commission that will investigate allegations of fraud. There have been no credible claims of fraud in the election.

Republicans opposing Wednesday's electoral count have one proposal to deal with the controversy — that Congress delay action for 10 days so an "emergency" electoral commission can audit the results and investigate voter fraud claims in the contested states.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, cited public opinion polls about the fidelity of the presidential election as a reason for the establishment of such a commission.

"I understand your concerns, but I urge you to pause and think what does it say to the nearly half of the country that believes the election was rigged if we don't even consider the claims of illegality and fraud," he told his Senate colleagues, many of who have criticized his efforts.

Cruz cited a 145-year-old precedent for such a panel. The 1876 presidential race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden was also marred by allegations of widespread fraud. A stymied Congress decided to appoint an electoral commission — with five House members, five senators and five Supreme Court justices — to investigate and resolve differences over the count.

"What I'm arguing for is Congress ought to do the same thing. We ought to have a fair inquiry, a fair audit into these results, and we ought to resolve these claims — not just dismiss them out of hand," he told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.

But there are some crucial differences between the 1876 electoral controversy and today's election. In the former, Congress received dueling slates of electors from three states — Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina. That hasn't happened this time. Only one official slate of electors has been certified by each state despite moves by some Republicans to send competing lists of names from several states.

Also, unlike in 1876, the many fraud allegations in this year's elections have been repeatedly disproven through audits, recounts, state investigations and in the courts. Judges, including some appointed by President Trump, have dismissed the allegations in dozens of cases.

On a more practical level, it would be almost impossible for a newly formed independent commission to delve into so many allegations and reach some agreement on the facts in only 10 days. It took the 1876 commission weeks of contentious negotiations to reach a deal, which effectively ended Reconstruction.

Even a staunch Trump supporter such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has dismissed the latest commission proposal as little more than a stunt.

"Proposing a commission at this late date – which has zero chance of becoming reality – is not effectively fighting for President Trump," he tweeted Sunday. "It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy."

It also wouldn't be the first time Trump and his supporters called for a commission to investigate baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. And it didn't end well. The president appointed a bipartisan panel shortly after his 2016 election in which he claimed between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally. The commission was controversial from the start and only met twice before it was disbanded amid multiple lawsuits and complaints from state election directors about the panel's demand for sensitive voter files.

During its seven months of existence, the panel uncovered no evidenceof widespread fraud.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.