A bipartisan group of senators introduced two new election bills designed to ensure the peaceful transition of power between presidents and avoid another Jan. 6, 2021 riot. The bills combine multiple proposals that sponsors said would modernize election law they described as “archaic”.
The Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022 makes key changes to election law that investigators from the Jan. 6 investigative committee revealed Donald Trump tried to take advantage of to keep himself in office.
“The confusing and antiquated language we have on the books today from the 1887 electoral count act is a real and present danger to our democracy,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “We should reform the electoral count act to remove the ambiguity that we saw weaponized after the last election.”
The current Electoral Count Act goes all the way back to 1845. According to senators, one of the needed improvements would prevent state legislatures from rejecting that state’s popular vote by declaring a “failed election,” a term lawmakers said is not defined.
The bill contains multiple provisions to ensure states can have only a single slate of electors, raises the number of lawmakers needed to make an objection to electors from one member of each chamber to one fifth, and states the vice president plays a ministerial role in the electoral certification and cannot unilaterally decide to accept or reject ballots.
That clarification was needed after Donald Trump tried both privately and publicly to have then-Vice President Mike Pence reject electors from certain states.
“Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and the good of our country. And if you’re not. I’m going to be very disappointed in you,” former President Donald Trump said during the Jan. 6, 2021 rally from the White House Ellipse before the riot.
Nine Republican senators have co-sponsored the electoral reform bill. With those nine and all 50 Democratic senators voting in favor, only one more vote is needed to have enough support for filibuster-proof approval.
Senators also introduced the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act, which, among other things, would double the penalty for threatening election officials from one to two years in prison. It also improves handling of election mail by requiring the USPS to designate employees to coordinate and oversee the delivery of election mail. It also calls on the USPS to provide guidance to states on how to improve tracking and visibility of mailed ballots.