by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A couple of weeks ago, I noted … that time was short for the effort to reform the Electoral Count Act, and that getting that effort moving would require a concrete proposal from the bipartisan group of senators that has been working on the issue for months. On Wednesday, that group produced just such a proposal, and it strikes me as constructive, balanced, and very promising.
The proposal takes the form of two bills. The first is sponsored by nine Republican senators (Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Thom Tillis, and Todd Young) and seven Democratic senators (Joe Manchin, Ben Cardin, Chris Coons, Chris Murphy, Jeanne Shaheen, Kyrsten Sinema, and Mark Warner) and is focused on the Electoral Count Act itself.
This bill clarifies that states must appoint presidential electors in accordance with the laws they each pass before election day and does away with the dangerously vague concept of a “failed election” in the original ECA. It requires that the governor of each state (or else another particular official specifically assigned this role by state law) be the person to certify the state’s slate of electors, to avoid the possibility of different officials sending different slates to Congress. It clarifies that the Vice President’s role in counting electoral votes in Congress is purely ministerial and does not involve any sole decision-making authority. It raises the threshold for raising objections to a state’s electoral votes in Congress from one member of each house to one-fifth of the members of each house and narrows and clarifies the grounds for filing objections. …
… The second bill … takes up some issues beyond the scope of the Electoral Count Act. It would increase the penalties for threatening election officials, improve the postal service’s procedures for handling mail-in ballots where those are allowed under state law, reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission, and increase the penalties for tampering with election records.