Reforms to electoral count co-authored by Susan Collins could get vote this week
Congress could vote this week on a bill co-authored by Maine Sen. Susan Collins that would make significant changes to the way presidential electors are counted.
The Maine Republican and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia led the effort to negotiate the bipartisan compromise that is a direct response to the political turmoil and violence of Jan. 6, 2021 as former President Trump and his supporters tried to overturn the results of the 2020 elections.
The bill would make it harder for members of Congress to toss out a slate of presidential electors from states by requiring that at least 20% of both the House and the Senate object to presidential electors in order to halt the process. Currently, it only takes one representative and one senator to disrupt the count.
The Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022 would also make it clear that during the certification process, the role of the vice president is strictly ceremonial. And it aims to eliminate the possibility of multiple, competing slates of electors from states — a real prospect during the 2020 election count — by only allowing Congress to consider slates submitted by a governor or one other specified person.
With time quickly running out on this congressional session, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said last week that the electoral bill would likely be tacked onto a massive budget bill that Congress is expected to vote on this week. While the Electoral Count Act has bipartisan support, it appears unlikely to pass the House after Republican re-take control next year.
“I expect an omnibus will contain priorities both sides want to see passed into law, including more funding for Ukraine and the Electoral Count Act, which my colleagues in the Rules Committee have done great work on,” Schumer said last week. “It will be great to get that done.”
Collins said she is hopeful the bill will become law before year’s end.
“I am optimistic that the Electoral Count Reform Act that Senator Manchin and I drafted over many months with a bipartisan group of our colleagues will be included in the omnibus,” Collins said in a statement. “Our bill has 38 co-sponsors, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and it was approved by the Rules Committee 14-1. There's an increasing realization that we really need to fix the flaws in this ambiguous 1887 law before the next presidential election cycle starts in earnest next year.
Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, agreed that Congress must act this year. King had proposed a slightly different electoral count reform bill earlier this year but signed onto the Collins-Manchin bill as a co-sponsor and voted for it as a member of the Senate Rules Committee.
"I don’t count things around here until they are on the president’s desk but the Electoral Count Act should be part of that (omnibus budget) bill,” King said in an interview late last week. “There’s bipartisan support. It's incredibly important. This is a timebomb under U.S. democracy. We have got to fix this antique law that is so dangerous in terms of how we finalize our presidential elections."