Article

Electoral Count Act Reform Is Now Within Reach

With the latest version of the Electoral Count Reform Act, the Senate just a took a critical step toward preventing another insurrection.

The sun rises over the U.S. Capitol.
The sun rises over the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2022. (Getty/Kevin Dietsch)

According to the U.S. Constitution, “The Person having the greatest Number of [Electoral] Votes shall be the President.” But in the lead-up to January 6, 2021, there was a concerted effort to change the electoral votes and block a legitimately elected president from taking office. This effort culminated in violence at the U.S. Capitol, an event without precedent in American history.

Now, thankfully, Congress is within striking distance of a deal that would help protect against another attack on a presidential election.

Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration—under the leadership of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO)—voted on a bipartisan basis in favor of an updated version of the Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA) of 2022. Like the previous version of the bill, the amended ECRA would take concrete steps to address each of the most pressing threats to the electoral count. For example, it would:

  • Clarify that the vice president has only a ministerial role in counting the electoral votes.
  • Close the loophole that allows state legislatures to declare a “failed” election and potentially overrule the decision of the voters.
  • Ensure an expedited judicial process to resolve disputes about the validity of electoral votes.

In addition, the revised version of the bill strengthens these protections. Perhaps most notably, it would:

  • Ensure that courts could review whether a governor has appropriately certified a state’s electors.
  • Provide for a more expedited judicial review process.
  • Make clear that nothing in the bill impedes the important role of state courts in ensuring fair elections.

The Center for American Progress wrote in support of the previous version of the bill and applauds members of the Senate for these improvements.

Now, only two steps remain.

First, and most importantly, the Senate must harmonize its bill with the version of Electoral Count Act (ECA) reform that recently passed in the House—the Presidential Election Reform Act (PERA). As expected, the House bill, led by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), is a strong proposal and contains a number of ideas worthy of consideration by the Senate.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the Senate came up with the bulk of its bill over the course of an intensive negotiation process stretching back nearly nine months to the beginning of the year. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats, a very strong indication that it has the support of a filibuster-proof majority. Any changes must keep this coalition intact. Therefore, as CAP has said before, Congress should continue to embrace a can-do spirit and not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

This is particularly true given step two: the need to get the bill on the legislative calendar and pass it through the House and Senate. There are only three months left in the year, not to mention a midterm election and a crowded legislative agenda. In order to pass ECA reform by the end of the year, congressional leaders need to conclude any further negotiations quickly and pass the bill as soon as possible.

ECA reform is within reach. All that’s needed now is for members of Congress to keep their eyes on the ball and continue their willingness to set aside small differences for the sake of democracy.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Author

Alex Tausanovitch

Director, Campaign Finance and Electoral Reform

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