A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is ‘very close’ to brokering a historic deal that would make it extremely difficult for Americans to challenge the results of contested elections.
The senators have agreed “on a series of provisions to reform the Electoral Count Act, a move aimed at clarifying the role of the vice president and Congress in confirming the winner of a presidential election in the wake of Jan. 6,” NBC News reported on Thursday. “The working group is finalizing legislation and expects to release text as early as next week.”
“We’re very close. We’ve got a few technical issues that we need to iron out, and I’m very hopeful that we’ll have a bill early next week — or bills,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters Wednesday. “That’s one of the issues that we’re deciding: whether it’s better to introduce more than one bill or one bill.”
NBC News provided the details of the senators reported to be involved and the preliminary agreement:
The working group met Wednesday afternoon to hash out the remaining issues and are close to a deal they hope both parties can support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have both blessed the bipartisan talks aimed at closing loopholes in election law. And Collins anticipates broad support for what they introduce, saying the group has gotten input from the transition councils of both former President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama’s administrations. […]
The Senate election group has agreed to clarify the law to make clear the vice president cannot unilaterally reject electors and to raise the threshold for members of Congress to object from the current rule of one member of the House and Senate. They also plan to amend the presidential transition rules to provide essential resources to both major candidates in cases of a close or contested election. The group has also discussed including other provisions.
“We gained consensus on presidential transition, the Electoral Count Act, the responsibility of the vice president about certification proceedings,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told NBC News.
“We’ve got a substantial base where we agree. We’ve eliminated the things where we couldn’t find common ground,” he added.
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According to the activist group Protect Democracy, reforming the Electoral Count Act would change how votes are cast for the president and vice president.
“The Electoral Count Act (ECA) governs the process of casting and counting Electoral College votes for president and vice president,” Protect Democracy notes. ” The statute sets the timeline for states to appoint presidential electors in November and for electors to cast their votes in December, and describes the process that Congress should follow when it counts the states’ electoral votes in January.”
“As the nation learned in January 2021, the statute is badly in need of an update,” the group continued. “It includes antiquated and ambiguous language, and fails to offer clear guidance on key aspects of the process of counting electoral votes and resolving related disputes — weaknesses that render the statute open to misunderstanding or exploitation, and risk the peaceful transitions of power that have been a hallmark of our democracy.”
“Updating the ECA is something Congress can do on a bipartisan basis — with no advantage to either party so far in advance of 2024 — to help ensure that the will of the voters in each state is respected by Congress and to guard against crises during future presidential elections,” Protect Democracy argued, before offering its own suggested reforms.
Updates to the ECA should include, according to Protect Democracy:
1. Clarifying the extraordinary circumstances under which states may appoint electors after Election Day;
2. Better ensuring that state-level determinations of election results made in accordance with state law are respected by Congress;
3. Clarifying the limited role of the Vice President (as President of the Senate) in the process of counting electoral votes;
4. Raising the threshold for Members of Congress to object to another state’s certified election results, and clarifying the narrow grounds upon which such objections may be raised or sustained; and
5. Establishing clear rules and processes for resolving disputes in Congress as to counting electoral votes.
Sen. Tillis made a vague allusion to including expansions of “voter access” — a demand of many Democrats — which is plausibly doublespeak for weakening election integrity laws, a major concern for Republican voters in the aftermath of the razor-thin 2020 election.