Time to Fix the Electoral Count Act

One of the reasons for the chaos on January 6 is the ambiguity of the Electoral Count Act. Then-President Donald Trump tried to use the law to get Vice President Mike Pence to reject votes from certain states and instead recognize separate slates of electors who supported Trump.

Pence refused, but the attempt was enough to inspire a bi-partisan group of Senators to update the law. Senators Joe Manchin (D, WV) and Susan Collins (R, Maine) spearheaded the rewrite of the 19th century law. Eight Republicans, including Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and six Democrats are co-sponsors of the bill.

The legislation includes important reforms designed to protect the legitimacy of an election and clarify the role of the Vice President. According to a fact sheet, the bill:

–Identifies the Governor of each state as responsible for certifying the list of the state’s electors. “Congress could not accept a slate submitted by a different official.”

–Requires Congress to “defer to slates of electors submitted by the state’s executive” unless there is a judgment in state or federal court that changes the outcome of the popular vote.

–Provides for “expedited review” of claims related to the state’s electors so that challenges can be reviewed prior to the electoral count on January 6.

–Affirms that the Vice President’s role as the presiding officer when Congress meets to certify the election results is “solely ministerial,” and that he or she does not have the authority to overturn the election results.

–Raises the threshold to lodge an objection to one-fifth of the members of the House and Senate rather than the current one member.

–“Strikes a provision in an archaic 1845 law that could be used by state legislatures to override the popular vote in their states by declaring a ‘failed election’.”

Several Democrats tried to use the Electoral Count Act after the 2016 election to raise objections to the election of Donald Trump.  Then Vice President Joe Biden ignored them, pounded the gavel loudly, and certified the results, as was his responsibility.

But then the ceremonial proceedings spun out of control on January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, contributing to a dark and chaotic chapter in American history.

Clearly, the Electoral Count Act needs updated and clarified to avoid another near-catastrophe and to restore integrity to our presidential elections. That is something members of both parties should be able to agree on.

 

 





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