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Lawmakers Urge Electoral Count Changes to Fix Flaws Trump Exploited

WASHINGTON — Determined to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, proponents of a revision to the federal law governing presidential election counting urged lawmakers on Wednesday to fix the flaws President Donald Donald had left behind. J. Trump and his allies tried to exploit to undo the 2020 results.

“There is nothing more essential to the orderly transfer of power than clear rules for carrying it out,” Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican and one of the lead authors of a bill to update the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, said Wednesday. as the Senate Rules Committee began its review of the legislation. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate and House to take this opportunity to make the sensible and much-needed reforms before the end of this Congress.”

Supporters of the legislation, which has significant bipartisan support in the Senate, believe a Republican takeover of the House in November and the start of the 2024 presidential election could make it impossible to pass major changes to the electoral law in the next Congress. to feed. They worry that unless the outdated statute is changed, the shortcomings exposed by Mr Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to interfere in the electoral count could mean another attempt to hold the presidential election. undermine.

“The Electoral Count Act of 1887 turned out to be potentially trickier than anyone ever imagined,” said Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, the senior Republican on the control panel. “The language of 1887 is really outdated and vague in so many ways. Both sides of the aisle want to update this law.”

But despite the emerging consensus, lawmakers also admitted that some changes to the proposed legislation were likely triggered by concerns from electoral law experts. In an effort to solve some of the problems of the old measure, experts say, the new legislation could create new ones.

“It needs to be resolved,” Norm Eisen, an election and ethics expert and former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, said of the Electoral Count Act after his testimony Wednesday. “But it has to be solved correctly.”

And in the House, a group of lawmakers led by members of the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack were drafting their own bill, which was expected to differ widely from the one agreed upon by a bipartisan group of senators. .

The Senate proposal would more accurately define the vice president’s role in overseeing the vote counting at a joint session of Congress, making it clear that the job is strictly ministerial. That’s in direct response to Mr. Trump’s failed attempt to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to reject election results for certain states in order to prevent Congress from declaring Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. certifies.

The bill would also raise the threshold for objections to ballot counting to one-fifth the number of members of both chambers. That’s a significant increase over the current law, which allows just one member of the House and Senate to jointly object and force a vote on whether or not to accept a state’s results.

The legislation would also designate the governor or other clearly specified state official as the only person who can file a list of a state’s presidential elections to prevent competing sets of voters from appearing.

That was also in response to what happened after the 2020 election, when Mr. Trump and his allies developed a plan to put forward false lists of voters who would vote for Mr. Trump, despite the fact that he was not in it. had managed to win the popular vote in their states. .

Some critics of the bill argued that more changes were needed to protect the integrity of the electoral count. They have called for a longer period for judges to review state election certifications than the six days allowed in the bill. They also want a tighter definition of the “extraordinary and catastrophic events,” allowing state officials to extend election day. And they have urged to make it even harder for lawmakers to challenge the election results, with clearly specified reasons that should fuel such objections.

House officials expect to make their proposal public within weeks. The two chambers would have to agree on a final compromise if one were to become law.

Some House Democrats are calling for a final bill to include broader voter protections proposed after some states introduced new limits on voter access after the 2020 election. But those plans cannot purge the Senate, where they have already been repeatedly blocked by Republican filibusters.

“Can we do much more?” asked Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the lead Democratic author of the legislation. “Absolutely. People want a lot more. But the bottom line is that this is doing what it’s supposed to do to prevent a January 6 from ever happening again.”

Despite some disagreements over the details, everyone who testified on Wednesday and those on the committee agreed on the need for an electoral law review and said they were on track for approval before the November election or in a slack session after the midterm. mood.

“The House Administration Committee has issued a report with some recommendations similar to ours,” Ms Collins said. “So I’m hopeful that we can work with the House and get this done.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and chair of the Rules Committee, noted that she and Mr. Blunt as panel leaders were responsible for completing the electoral vote counting in the early morning hours of Jan. broken glass and other damage done by the Capitol looters to finish a job started hours earlier.

“The will of the American people could have been reversed,” she said. “Our job is to make sure this never happens again, no matter who is in charge or what happens.”

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