Good Governance Demands Process Fairness

Process fairness sought by politicians from all sides

Process fairness is a common concern of Republicans and Democrats in Washington. If you can get past the questions of substance surrounding the upcoming impeachment, it’s the process that gets the attention. Both sides want it to be fair, but that’s where the consensus stops. Neither side believes what the other wants is an example of process fairness.

Republicans – Trump allies – are adamant that the process up to this point has been woefully unfair, a sham even. Witness depositions have been gathered (and more to come) behind closed doors, which engender distrust. Never mind that Republican committee members have been welcomed to participate in the closed-door sessions. It’s the optics and the process that create confusion and accusations of being heavy-handed and unfair.

Impeachment inquiry is part of process fairness

Last Thursday, Halloween, the House of Representatives endorsed an impeachment inquiry amidst the rancor of a bitterly divided chamber.

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CBS News reports on the House Rules Committee procedures identified for the Judiciary inquiry proceedings:

Under the Rules Committee procedures, the counsel for the majority and minority of the other committees involved in the impeachment inquiry would provide a report and records to the Judiciary Committee, which would be made available to the president’s counsel, who would also be allowed to be present for hearings by the committee counsel and ask questions.

The president and his counsel would also be permitted to attend all hearings once witnesses are called and would be able to object to evidence and testimony, with [Representative Adam] Schiff judging the merits of the objection. Schiff’s decision could be overruled by a majority of members.

The president’s counsel also may question any witness called before the Committee, subject to instructions from the chair or presiding member respecting the time, scope and duration of the examination.

Impeachment is a solemn exercise

Impeachment proceedings are solemn moments in our nation’s history. The current example will not escape the seriousness it brings. It will also disappoint many while legal process is exercised. Always, standards of fairness will be tested.

While the process outlined above may seem fair, giving all sides their moment of inquiry and defense, how it is exercised will be telling. With Republicans adamant that foul play is afoot, accusations of wasted time and money abound. Is it all worth it?

New York Times reports on “A Divided House Endorses Impeachment Inquiry Into Trump”, quoting House Speaker Pelosi:

What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.

Further, the article notes Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, saying:

We don’t know whether President Trump is going to be impeached but the allegations are as serious as it gets: endangering national security for political gain. History is testing us.

Process fairness is solemn business. It matters. Outcomes are unknown and unpredictable. Indeed, a fair process is the best tool(s) we have.

Electing a president demands process fairness

Whether the concern is about removing a president or electing one to office, process fairness is critical. While defending the Electoral College, I’ve often pointed out that:

The process is as important as the voting result!

While visiting with our own (Oregon) Governor Brown when she was our Secretary of State, she noted that an alternative voting method was being considered (the National Popular Vote bill). I pointed out to her then, and to blog readers now, any voting mechanism will give you results. You can flip a coin to get an answer. You can put marbles in a coffee can, if you wish. Dip people’s fingers in ink to make your point. I promise – you’ll get results. But will the process serve you well? Will you experience process fairness?

Electoral College is little understood

It’s become obvious to me that most people (by a very wide percentage, including state legislators) really do not understand how the Electoral College works. Many believe, for example, that we live in a pure democracy. We don’t and our founding fathers exerted extensive effort to ensure our election process is fair, complete with an ingenious system of checks and balances.

Tara Ross, author of “Enlightened Democracy,” explains in a video how the Electoral College system works.

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Click here to view her Electoral College video.

In our representative democracy, many factors come into play to help ensure everyone gets a voice. It’s a system of process fairness that allows minority voices to be heard with an intentional limitation over mob rule. Whichever process is used, it must meet the standards of transparency, inclusiveness, and fairness.

We may not always succeed in its exercise, but we must be mindful in everything our nation does, as Representative McGovern warned: History is testing us.

Will we get it right? At the end of the day, will we be able to say we listened, we considered, we were diligent? These are solemn times. And, much like the election in which we’ll participate twelve months from now, process fairness will speak volumes to historians in years to come.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team

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