Bipartisan Senate group reaches deal to rewrite voter count law
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday proposed new legislation to modernize the 135-year-old voter count law, working to overhaul a law that President Donald J. Trump tried to abuse on Jan. 6, 2021. , to interfere with Congress’ certification of his electoral defeat.
The legislation aims to ensure a peaceful transition from one president to another, after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol demonstrated how the current law could be manipulated to disrupt the process. A measure would make it harder for lawmakers to challenge a state’s electoral votes when Congress meets to make its official tally. It would also clarify that the vice president has no discretion over the results and outline the steps to begin a presidential transition.
A second bill would increase penalties for threats and intimidation of election officials and encourage measures to improve the Postal Service’s handling of mail-in ballots.
Alarmed by the events of Jan. 6 that exposed longstanding flaws in the law governing the voter count process, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of Virginia- Occidentale, has been meeting for months to try to agree on a rewrite.
“From the beginning, our bipartisan group shared a vision for drafting legislation to correct the flaws in the archaic and ambiguous Voter Count Act of 1887,” 16 senators said in a joint statement. “Through numerous meetings and debates among our colleagues as well as conversations with a wide variety of electoral experts and legal scholars, we have developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our electoral vote certification and counting system. for the president and the vice-president.”
Key revelations from the January 6 hearings
Although the authors don’t have the minimum of 10 Republican senators needed to ensure the legislation can pass the filibuster and final passage, they hope to muster enough support for a vote later this year.
The legislative effort began after the Jan. 6 attack, which unfolded as Congress gathered for the traditional counting of the ballots that is the last official confirmation of the presidential election results before the inauguration. .
On the eve of the riot, Mr Trump tried unsuccessfully to persuade Vice President Mike Pence – who chaired the session in his capacity as Senate Speaker – to unilaterally block the count, citing false allegations of voter fraud .
The new legislation focuses primarily on the treatment of electoral votes and does not incorporate the broader voting protections sought by Democrats after some states instituted new laws seen as making it harder for people to vote after Democratic victories in 2020. Senate Republicans previously blocked those who vote. measures.
There is a widespread feeling in Congress that some action needs to be taken to strengthen the voter count law, though there may be disagreement on the specific provisions.
“The voter count law needs to be fixed,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Minority Leader, told reporters on Tuesday, saying he was “sympathetic” to the goals of those working on the legislation.
Under the proposed vote count overhaul, a state’s governor would be identified as solely responsible for submitting the state’s voters list after the presidential vote, barring other officials from doing so.
In order to prevent frivolous attempts to object to a state’s electoral count, a minimum of one-fifth of the House and Senate would be required to file an objection — a substantial increase from the current one-member threshold. of the House and a senator. Objections should always be supported by a majority of the House and Senate.
After an impasse over the presidential transition in 2020, when Trump administration officials initially refused to provide President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. with funding and office space to begin preparations to take office, the Legislation would allow more than one candidate to receive bridging resources if the outcome remains contested.
After pressure from Mr. Trump and his allies to get Mr. Pence to manipulate the electoral count in favor of Mr. Trump, the legislation would state that the vice president’s role is primarily ceremonial and that “he or she shall not has no authority to determine, accept, reject or otherwise adjudicate voter disputes. »
Besides Ms Collins, the other Republican members of the bipartisan group supporting the overhaul are Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska. , Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana.
Besides Mr. Manchin, the Democrats are Senators Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Chris Coons of Delaware, Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Mark Warner of Virginia.