Bipartisan Group of Senators Announce Election Reform Legislation
A bipartisan group of senators have reached a deal to make it more difficult to overturn a certified presidential election, doing so in response to former President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The proposal was announced on July 20, but is expected to take numerous months of negotiations and navigating the legislative process in order to garner the support of 60 senators to break filibuster attempts and get the deal passed.
The deal was announced after months of negotiations by Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, with six additional Democrats and eight Republicans highlighting the bipartisan group.
First Bill of Proposal to Revamp Electoral Count Act
The proposal is split up into two bills. The first bill, which is co-sponsored by the nine Republicans and seven Democrats who announced the deal, is focused on overhauling the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which Trump attempted to exploit to create confusion over how Congress counts Electoral College votes and spread the false narrative that the vice president has the power to reject electoral votes. The proposed legislation would clarify that the vice president only has a ceremonial role in overseeing the certification of electoral college votes.
While the vice president currently has no ability to object to state-certified electoral results according to constitutional experts, Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct the Electoral College certification in Congress anyway. Pence refused President Trump’s pressure.
The proposed legislation also promotes an orderly transition of presidential power, outlining that if neither candidate is to concede within five days of the election, both candidates will receive access to federal transition resources until “it is substantially certain who will win the majority of electoral votes.”
The bill also attempts to prevent efforts to enlist illegitimate electors, as revelations of efforts of Trump allies to do so are revealed. The proposed legislation will include changes to the Electoral Count Act that ensure Congress can clearly “identify a single, conclusive slate of electors from each state,” according to a fact sheet. The proposal would make state governors responsible for submitting a certificate identifying electors, barring Congress from accepting electors submitted by any other official.
The proposal also makes it more difficult for members of Congress to overturn an election. Currently, one senator and one House representative are needed to call for a vote on whether to dismiss results subject to an objection. The bill changes this by increasing “the threshold to lodge an objection to electors to at least one-fifth of the duly chosen and sworn members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate."
Second Proposed Bill to Improve Election Security and Increase Penalties for Election Interference
The second bill, co-sponsored by five Republicans and seven Democrats, is focused on improving election security and enhancing federal penalties for those who threaten or intimidate election officials and for those who tamper with election records.
This bill also includes measures to improve mail-in ballot procedures and would reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission for five years, an independent agency that would implement cyber security measures for voting systems.
The Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing on the Electoral Count Act and the proposed legislation on August 3, the first step in the effort to pass the legislation before the end of the year.