Amid a rising American atmosphere of political death threats and violence, some are calling for a secret vote in Donald Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial to protect senators’ safety.
The idea was discussed after Trump’s first impeachment in 2019. Some argued that Republicans were unable to vote their conscience because of pressure from their party and constituents.
Secret votes, however, run contrary to a principle of transparency and senators’ accountability. Critics on Twitter complained Republicans would claim they voted one way, while actually voting exactly the opposite.
I like this idea in theory, but I also want to know if my senator actually voted to represent my interests and those of the nation. Perhaps a secret ballot to be unsealed three months before they face re-election?
— Seth Warren (@illusionofjoy) January 23, 2021
This time around, for Trump’s second impeachment, the risk of danger appears significantly higher in the wake of a death plot against Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and death threats against infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci for crossing Trump — and the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.
Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich was among those suggesting a secret vote in the upcoming February impeachment trial.
February vote in Senate on whether to convict Trump should be a secret ballot in order to (1) protect safety of senators, and (2) allow them to vote their consciences. Pass it on.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 23, 2021
If Republican senators had integrity and if Trump supporters were peaceful, this wouldn’t be necessary. But they’re not and they’re not. So a secret ballot offers a better chance of convicting Trump and ensuring he’ll never again be president.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 23, 2021
Harvard law professor and Constitution expert Laurence Tribe supported Reich’s idea as the “fairest way to proceed — as with any ordinary jury,” but didn’t think it was “in the cards.”
A secret ballot would probably convict and ban Trump 100-0. But I guess it’s not in the cards, though it’d be the fairest way to proceed — as with any ordinary jury. https://t.co/xgU19XxgjG
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) January 23, 2021
New York Times bestselling author Kurt Eichenwald also backed the idea.
In writing rules for impeachment trial, @SenSchumer should include that vote will be secret ballot. @SenateGOP talking about political considerations instead of Constitutional. For real verdict, @SenateDems should give cover. Adopting this rule can be approved with no GOP votes.
— Kurt "Masks Save Lives" Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) January 23, 2021
Other responses were sharply mixed.
Yes. How the Repugnants are treating Liz Cheney is unacceptable. And she did what was right.
— Lynay Erickson (@lynayerickson) January 23, 2021
I agree. It’s more important to take Trump down forever than having them on record. We have four years of them in the record, and one more vote won’t matter.
— jul- lifelong dem (@snowflakeJul) January 23, 2021
Since some of them are afraid to take a stand in public, might as well allow them to exercise a shred of integrity in private.
— Susan J. Stiers (@sjstiers) January 23, 2021
With trumps recent threats they’ll probably vote no. Secret in this case might be good.
— just🍩🥁Julie🍩🥁 (@dinneysmama) January 23, 2021
I understand why you want a secret ballot. But I think voters have a right to know who voted for sedition before the next election.
— Jeanne Mann (@Jeanne_Mann) January 24, 2021
While I understand & sympathize with the sentiment behind this, secret vote will only further mistrust towards congress. The majority of Rs believe Trump lost unfairly. They’re wrong, but that’s where we’re at. They’ll never believe he was lawfully removed if it’s a secret vote.
— samsquatch (@k_samboni) January 23, 2021
Haven't we had enough secrecy? Shouldn't people be proud to vote their conscience? If they aren't then we should know about it.
— kimmy 😷💔🌎💔 (@BlueCoyote62) January 23, 2021
No. Just no. They're adults. Pandering to this cravenness enforces it. They were elected to represent. No hiding on their vote. No. No. No.
— Annie's on WH Dog Watch! 🦴🐕 (@Annie25CO) January 23, 2021
What if GOP still vote to acquit? Then we won't know who is on the side of sedition. Nancy Pelosi's life was in danger. What did she do? She didn't run from her duties. She made sure the certificatation was completed the same night. Then she helped impeach his ass. Transparency.
— KimmieG #truthtopower (@Kimgtrue2me) January 23, 2021
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.