There Is Broad Support for Electoral Count Act Reform

  • December 20, 2022
Support from the Press

Support from the Press

Ben Jacobs, “Trump found holes in our election laws. Congress is trying to patch them.” Vox, September 13, 2022.

It’s beyond the ken of lawmakers, or perhaps anyone, to try to sniff out every potential avenue for havoc. But they can fix obvious defects in presidential elections once they have been exploited. The Electoral Count Reform Act currently before the Senate is an effort to do that, fitting into a long history of legislative action following a breakdown in the existing laws. It’s not a bold reinvention of the American electoral system, but a series of bureaucratic reforms, requiring careful legal craftwork, intended to patch frays and holes in the United States Code.

Washington Post Editorial Board, “Congress’s first job right now: Safeguarding democracy.” The Washington Post, September 7, 2022.

The bill has never been perfect, but it has so far boasted a politically plausible path through Congress — itself an achievement given today’s politics. The Senate proposal, with plenty of support from Republicans, has much more of a chance to pass than any alternative with fewer bipartisan bona fides. Lawmakers should do whatever they can to improve the bill, but they should also recognize what they can’t do. And they should also act quickly, before this remarkable compromise loses what momentum it has left.

Washington Post Editorial Board, “The Electoral Count Reform Act must pass — even if it’s not perfect.” The Washington Post, August 2, 2022.

The Electoral Count Reform Act is a bipartisan compromise that comes in response to hyperpartisan division. It’s no surprise that the legislation isn’t perfect. What it is, however, is essential.

Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, “Thankfully, a long overdue fix for electoral vote counting law is on the horizon.” The Chicago Tribune, September 29, 2022.

Congress also has a legitimate role in overseeing the process to ensure that, regardless of where votes are cast, the votes are fairly, honestly and legally counted. The proposed Electoral Count Reform Act adds much-needed clarity to that role, clarity made even more crucial by the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

The Charlotte Observer Editorial Board, “Tillis, Senate Republicans thinking of country first with Electoral Count Act.” The Charlotte Observer, October 1, 2022.

The bill itself, S.4573, is fairly simple, however. There are issues in the 1887 Electoral Count Act that Trump and his circle tried to exploit in their pursuit of the Big Lie. The bill ensure’s that the vice president’s role in certifying the results is only ceremonial, so that the office does not hold the final say on whether election results are accepted or rejected. The bill also makes it harder to object the results of an election, requiring 20% of the voting members of Congress to object. Editorial Board, “A clean-up of the rules for electoral votes is overdue.”, October 5, 2022.

The Star Tribune Editorial Board, “Protect democracy, pass election reform.” The Star Tribune, October 1, 2022.

Rick Hasen, “What the Critics Get Incredibly Wrong about the Collins-Manchin Election Bill.” Slate, July 25, 2022.

Any meaningful step that lessens the chances of a stolen presidential election in 2024 or beyond is worth pursuing, and the bill would be a significant step forward. 

Ramesh Ponnuru, “The Senate’s Election Reform Bill Does Just Enough.” Bloomberg, July 24, 2022.

But the bill’s main focus is properly on preventing misconduct at the federal level. (A companion bill responds to threats to federal and state election workers.) The current version of the law lets Congress throw out electors if a state has held a “failed election.” The reform lays out narrow and objective criteria for discarding electors, and again requires following procedures enacted prior to the election

Henry Olsen, “Electoral Count Act Reform Won’t Save Our Republic. But it Could Help Preserve it.” The Washington Post, July 21, 2022.

Electoral Count Act reform won’t save our republic, but it will help to preserve it. Congress should pass the proposal rapidly and with a large, bipartisan majority.

Yuval Levin, “A Promising New Electoral Count Act Reform Proposal.” National Review, July 21, 2022.

This is a very good set of reforms. The bulk of them are directed to avoiding a repeat of the sorts of problems we saw in 2020 — a situation in which the states all did their jobs but members of Congress, at the behest of the defeated incumbent president, moved to sow doubt about the outcome by capitalizing on the vagueness and looseness of the ECA. 

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, “Preventing the Next Jan. 6 Riot.” The Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2022.

This week 16 Senators, led by Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin, unveiled legislation to overhaul the ECA and stop future electoral mischief. The bill isn’t perfect, but it’s worth passing.

Washington Post Editorial Board, “A Bill to Prevent Trump’s Attempted Coup is Finally Ready – and Must Pass.” The Washington Post, July 20, 2022.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) have been laboring for months to overhaul the country’s arcane system of counting and certifying votes for president and vice president. Finally, they’ve released a product — and it’s a fine one. Their bill not only guards against the gambits the lame duck White House attempted in 2020, but it also limits the potential for other nefariousness by a future candidate.

Boston Globe Editorial Board, “Safeguarding the Electoral Count Before it’s Too Late.” The Boston Globe, July 26, 2022.

But this restructuring of the Electoral Count law can close some loopholes and eliminate those ambiguities ripe for exploitation by the next candidate-turned-tyrant bent on overturning the will of the people. It is an essential piece of legislation that should be in place long before the next presidential election rolls around.

National Review Editors, “Time to Pass Electoral Count Act Reform.” National Review, July 26, 2022.

Now, a proposed bipartisan bill, the Electoral Count Reform Act, is on the table… The ECRA is not perfect, and it could use some improvements to its language, but it deserves Republican support.

Tim Roemer and Zach Wamp, “Don’t delay — update the Electoral Count Act now.” The Washington Examiner, September 30, 2022.

In President George Washington’s Farewell Address, he cautioned about the forces of political factionalism and geographical sectionalism that threatened the stability of the young republic. By joining together to pass ECA reform, Democrats and Republicans will prove once again that we can overcome divisions and place our country above party politics. Let’s get this accomplished now.

Jennifer Rubin, “Democrats Should Take Yes for an Answer on Electoral Count Act Reform.” The Washington Post, July 20, 2022.

The sole test for the ECA reform bill should therefore be whether it makes the current system less vulnerable to abuse, fraud and coup plots. By limiting the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes, raising the bar for members of Congress to challenge electors and preventing mischief from state legislators, it meets that test. 

Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, “The New Proposal to Prevent a Future Coup is Surprisingly Good.” The Washington Post, July 20, 2022.

As we reported this week, a bipartisan group of senators has been negotiating over complicated reforms designed to thwart a rerun of Donald Trump’s coup attempt. The reforms revise the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs how Congress counts presidential electors. Now, the bill’s text has been released. It’s very similar to what we reported on previously, and the proposal turns out to be a surprisingly good one.

Walter Shapiro, “Don’t Let the Electoral Count Act go Down for the Count.” Roll Call, July 26, 2022.

For American democracy, though, nothing matters more than passing a long-overdue rewrite of an obscure piece of legislation called the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

Professors Ned Foley, Michael McConnell, Derek Muller, Rick Pildes, and Brad Smith, “Why Congress should Swiftly Enact the Senate’s Bipartisan ECA Reform Bill.” Election Law Blog, July 20, 2022.

The bipartisan group of Senators, led by Senators Collins and Manchin, have released a draft bill for a revised Electoral Count Act (ECA). We want to state here why we, a bipartisan group of law professors, support it and urge Congress to enact it this summer.

Support from Organizations

Support from Organizations

American Civil Liberties Union

These bipartisan, bicameral efforts to reform and modernize the Electoral Count Act by senators and representatives is a prime example of what elected officials can do when they work together. Every American should be confident that the presidential election results from their states will be honored. Reforming the Electoral Count Act is the first step toward repairing our democracy and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power, which is a cornerstone of American democracy.

Business Roundtable

Business Roundtable applauds the bipartisan group of Senators who have worked together to craft legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887. The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act makes important updates to the law to eliminate any ambiguities around Congress’s role or procedures.

Campaign Legal Center

The next presidential election could be one of the most contentious ever. Now is the time for the Senate to move this crucial legislation. Congress must act as soon as possible to pass the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act to protect the will of the people, because elections should be decided by voters, not partisan politicians.

Center for American Progress

The basic idea that the person with the most votes should win an election has been replaced by a conspiracy-minded refusal to accept defeat. The legislation introduced today would address one critical symptom of this problem: It would help prevent efforts to undermine presidential elections like the one that culminated in the January 6 attack. 

Civil Rights Groups

“The undersigned organizations welcome the introduction of legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887 (“ECA”)… The provisions in the bill are intended to address any ambiguity in the ECA. We look forward to Congress carefully reviewing and strengthening the current proposal to ensure that final legislation eliminates all paths to undermining the votes and voices of our increasingly diverse electorate.

Common Cause

Americans deserve to know their votes will be counted and their voices heard in our elections. Reform of the antiquated Electoral Count Act is an important step to safeguard the results of free and fair elections. 

Democracy 21

Democracy 21 is pleased that the Senate group has developed and unveiled this bipartisan proposal which sets the stage for the Senate to move forward in addressing the problems with the 1845 Act and the ECA – problems that were dramatized by former President Donald Trump’s presidential coup attempt.

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, S.4573, represents a significant advance forward to securing and protecting our democracy from future attacks on presidential elections. The bill—building on bipartisan legislation that passed the House earlier this year—contains important, common-sense reforms which modernize the process for certifying and counting electoral votes for presidential elections.

National Council on Election Integrity

We commend the senators involved for their leadership on this crucial issue. Updating the ECA now is necessary to protect future elections, and we look forward to supporting the ongoing discussions in both chambers to finalize the details to ensure Congress gets this done.

Support from Senators

Support from Senators

Senator Michael Bennet Statement

The orderly and peaceful transfer of power is a cornerstone of our democracy. We should leave no room for anti-democratic forces to exploit ambiguities in our laws to undermine our elections and the will of the American people. This much-needed proposal makes overdue and commonsense reforms to the process for counting electoral votes to uphold the integrity of our elections and strengthen our democracy. I urge my colleagues to join this critical bipartisan legislation.

Senator Roy Blunt Statement

This legislation was thoughtfully crafted with input from election experts, legal scholars, and senators on both sides of the aisle. I am grateful to the working group, led by Senators Collins and Manchin, for their dedicated efforts over the past year. The bill addresses the major flaws of the Electoral Count Act and merits the support of the full Senate.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito Statement

The legislation comes after months of bipartisan negotiations and will ensure the electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for president and will promote a peaceful transition of power between the outgoing and incoming president.

Senator Ben Cardin Statement

Free and fair elections are fundamental to who we are as a nation. For this reason, I strongly support the bipartisan working group’s proposal to reform and modernize the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887. 

Senator Ben Cardin Floor Statement

Our legislation aims to ensure that Congress can accurately and correctly tally the electoral votes cast by the States, which should be consistent with each State’s popular vote for President and Vice President of the United States. Our legislation clarifies some of the ambiguities in terms of the appropriate State and Federal roles in selecting the next President and Vice President of the United States as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

Senator Tom Carper Statement

This bipartisan legislation makes it clear that American voters elect the President of the United States and supports an orderly—and peaceful— transfer of power to future Administrations… I believe that this legislation is a critical piece to protecting our nation’s democracy. I urge the rest of my colleagues to join us in supporting this important legislation so that we can send it to President Biden’s desk in short order.

Senator Susan Collins Statement 7/20

Senator Susan Collins Floor Statement

The legislation that we are introducing – the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act – will help ensure that electoral votes totaled by Congress accurately reflect each state’s popular vote for President and Vice President.

Senator Susan Collins Statement 7/22

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) led a bipartisan group of 16 Senators in introducing legislation to reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887. Since then, endorsements from legal scholars, campaign experts, and organizations from across the political spectrum have rolled in to express support for this bipartisan effort.

Senator Chris Coons Statement

Today’s legislation is a critical first step towards repairing damage to our democratic process and public confidence in our free and fair elections, and I am optimistic it will move forward in the days to come.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto Statement

This commonsense, bipartisan legislation was crafted in consultation with legal experts from across the political spectrum to modernize our electoral count system… I’m glad to join my colleagues of both parties on this critical legislation to bring clarity, accuracy, and transparency to Congress’s role in certifying the election of president and vice president.

Senator Dick Durbin Speech

The Senate will soon consider a bipartisan Electoral Count Reform Act to make it plain that a Presidential election cannot be overturned by wrongful partisan interference by a Vice President or any State or congressional officials. I support this effort… I hope that this bipartisan effort can get 60 votes in the Senate.

Senator Dianne Feinstein Statement

It’s vital that we modernize this law – which is more than a century old – to prevent similar attempts to overturn legitimate election results in the future. This bipartisan bill will help ensure that our elections remain free and fair and that the will of the people is upheld.

Senator Ron Johnson Statement

Senator Amy Klobuchar Statement

We must update the antiquated Electoral Count Act to ensure that electoral votes for president accurately reflect the will of the people in each state and to improve the process for counting electoral votes in Congress… Now that this bill has passed the Rules Committee with a strong bipartisan vote, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure this critical legislation continues advancing through the Senate and is signed into law this year.

Senator Amy Klobuchar Tweet

Senator Joe Manchin Statement

Senator Mitch McConnell Statement

‘I strongly support the modest changes that our colleagues in the working group have fleshed out after months of detailed discussions. I will proudly support the legislation…”

Senator Lisa Murkowski Statement

Our legislation gives more clarity to states and Congress on the electoral count process; clarifies that when the successful candidate for President and Vice President is not clear, that all candidates have equal access to information important to an orderly transition of power; provides improvements to cybersecurity testing for voting systems; and enhances penalties for individuals who threaten election workers—just to name a few. There is nothing more fundamental than the right to vote, so we are taking necessary steps to bolster the public’s trust in our elections.

Senator Chris Murphy Speech

I’m proud of the effort between Republicans and Democrats to put aside our differences on other issues and to be able to put before this body a proposal that will assure that the votes that are cast all across this country for president in 2024 result in the winner of that election sitting in the Oval Office.

Senator Chris Murphy Statement

Senator Alex Padilla Statement

Electoral Count Act reform is critical to ensuring that the process of certifying future Presidential elections — and the peaceful transfer of power that is fundamental to our democracy — cannot be disrupted as they were on January 6th.

Senator Alex Padilla Tweet

Our democracy fundamentally depends on the peaceful transfer of power. That’s why it’s so important that we reform the Electoral Count Act – to ensure that certification of future Presidential elections cannot be derailed.

Senator Rand Paul Opinion Piece

Enacting the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act into law will help demonstrate, both to our citizens and to the world, that our republican form of government, which respects the laws of the sovereign states and the various perspectives of individuals throughout our common country, will long endure.

Senator Mitt Romney Statement

Senator Ben Sasse Statement

This is a good bill – specifically the provisions clarifying the Vice President’s limited role and increasing the threshold for objections. This bill cleans up some ambiguity in the ECA that was dishonestly exploited on January 6th. 

Senator Jeanne Shaheen Statement

Senator Thom Tillis Statement

Senator Pat Toomey Statement

The poor drafting of the 1887 Electoral Count Act endangered the transition of power from one Administration to the next. Unfortunately, in the over 100 intervening years, individual Democratic and Republican Members of Congress have occasionally attempted to exploit the ambiguities in this law to cast doubt on the validity of our elections, culminating in the debacle of January 6, 2021. It is past time Congress act.

Senator Mark Warner Statement

Senator Mark Warner Tweet Thread

One of the most critical provisions of our Electoral Count Act reform bill requires 1/5 of Senators AND House members to challenge a state’s electoral count – so just a few fringe representatives can no longer sow distrust in our democratic institutions.

Senator Mark Warner Tweet

Passing the Electoral Count Act means protecting democracy and the transition of power. It is past time to get it done.

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