As the House Select Committee gets set to hold its final scheduled public hearing on the violence surrounding the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election, on the Senate side of Congress, a bipartisan group has just introduced a bill that reforms the Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) to prevent anything like January 6 from ever happening again.
The proposed Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act removes the vague and antiquated language exploited by those who wished to stop the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, at both the state and the federal level.
Election Law Experts Applaud Proposed ECA Reform
“I’m really excited about this bill,” said Trey Grayson (R), former Kentucky Secretary of State, during a webinar Wednesday hosted by the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization Protect Democracy and attended by Political IQ. “I think the beauty of our federal system’s where we have this check and balance on one another but with clear rules. And that’s what’s so great about this proposal.”
Adav Noti, Vice President and Legal Director of the Campaign Legal Center, echoed his sentiment. “The whole point of this effort to fix the ECA is to meaningfully reduce the opportunities for any political actor, federal or state, to sabotage a Presidential election after Election Day,” he said. “And the bill that was released today would meaningfully reduce the opportunities for any state or federal actor to sabotage a Presidential election after Election Day.”
Bill Makes Numerous Changes to ECA
The new bill proposes a number of changes to the current ECA. Here are the highlights:
First, it would eliminate language regarding “failed elections” and replace it with “a much clearer statement as to what the language was intended to mean,” said Noti. For example, “if some disaster happens on Election Day such that the Presidential Election can’t be completed on that day.”
Grayson cited 9/11 having been a Primary Election Day in New York as an example of a failed election. “Voting had started, and we pushed that election back,” he recalled. “Those are the kinds of failed elections we’re trying to contemplate, not a, ‘Oh, we don’t like the outcome. We’re not sure how these rules were changed.'”
Second, it would provide clarity on the requirement that electors be appointed on a specific day that Congress has required.
Third, it would clarify the role of the Vice President as “solely ministerial.”
Fourth, it raises the threshold for objecting to any state’s electors from one House member and one Senator to one-fifth of the members from each Chamber.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), not one of the bill’s co-authors but who worked on an adjacent, bipartisan discussion draft on ECA reform, explained Thursday on MSNBC the importance of this change. Under the current law, with one Representative and one Senator allowed to object, “they can literally do it to each state. And each time they do it, it takes like three to four hours. We had anticipated without the insurrection it was going to take at least 24 hours through the night to go through this” on January 6, 2021.
Protect Democracy Counsel Genevieve Nadeau said the bill, if passed, would find “that good balance between the authority of states to conduct elections and send their results with the requirement that Congress count those results, ensuring that states themselves also abide by the rule of law.”
She added, “At a high level, you look at all these proposals, there’s quite a lot of commonality. And I think that’s actually pretty encouraging.”
Bill Authored By Bipartisan Team With Winning Track Record
Klobuchar, who’s the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over election matters, said she and ranking Republican, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, plan to bring the new bill before their committee for a hearing on August 3.
When it ultimately goes before the full Congress, it will need a simple majority in the House but likely a 60-vote majority in the Senate to break a filibuster.
Former Secretary of State Grayson is optimistic about its chances for passage. “There’s a big overlap among the Senators who imparted this reform effort and the Senators who helped draft the infrastructure bill,” he said. “So they have a track record of identifying a political policy sweet spot where you can attract bipartisan support in the Senate and draft a bill that Democrats who control the House and the President also support.”
Senator Klobuchar does not see failure as an option. “I was the one with Senator Blunt at 3:30 in the morning walking through the broken glass with two young women with the mahogany box, so I know very well that this procedure has to be changed,” she said.