Bipartisan Senate Coalition Reaches Deal to Reform Electoral Count Act

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) presides over the vote to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump for the second time in little over a year in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

July 20, 2022

A bipartisan group of senators, headed by Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have reportedly struck a deal to amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887, reported The New York Times.

The Electoral Count Act was passed 135 years ago after the tumultuous election of 1876, in which certain states sent multiple competing slates of electors to Congress in order to influence the final tabulation of the Electoral College.

The Electoral Count Act is what currently governs the electoral count process in Congress every four years on January 6th. According to Article II of the Constitution, the vice-president, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, must count the total number of electoral votes cast by the electors of the several states. 

The goal of the recent effort to alter the Electoral Count Act is to better ensure the integrity of the election process, more specifically clarifying that the constitutional procedure that takes place on January 6th is not a way to simply overturn the results of the Electoral College. Proponents of the bipartisan agreement hope to clarify the specific powers of the vice-president, vindicating then-Vice-President Mike Pence’s interpretation of the process: that the vice-president does not have the power to single handedly reject certain slates of electors.

Under the current system, members of Congress may object to a state’s electors, provided that at least one representative and one senator are onboard with the objection. Multiple members of the House of Representatives tried to object to the elections of 2000, 2004, 2016, and of course, 2020, but their objections were not equally ordained by a senator.

Senators like Manchin and Collins hope to raise this threshold—from one senator and one house member—to at least 20% of each chamber. 

“From the beginning, our bipartisan group has shared a vision of drafting legislation to fix the flaws of the archaic and ambiguous Electoral Count Act of 1887,” 16 senators said in a joint statement. 

“Through numerous meetings and debates among our colleagues as well as conversations with a wide variety of election experts and legal scholars, we have developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for president and vice president.”

This bipartisan agreement, however, still lacks what seems to be 10 Republican senators that are required for this bill’s survival of a senate filibuster. They hope to gain a sufficient amount of votes by the end of this year.

“The Electoral Count Act does need to be fixed,” said Senator and Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on Tuesday. He further said that he was “sympathetic” to the aims of those working on the legislation.

The current bill to reform the Electoral Count Act does not include broader voting protections that Democrats had previously campaigned for in Congress, though the general sentiment in Washington is in favor of a general need to bolster the current process that governs the counting procedures of the Electoral College.

Proponents of the effort hope to instate such reforms to protect against events such as the January 6th Capitol riot in 2021, when a mob of violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building when Congress was counting the electoral votes in an attempt to sway the election in Donald Trump’s favor. Congress was able to complete the certification of President Biden’s victory hours after the riot had concluded.


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