- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Legislation unveiled Tuesday by three Senate Democrats would overhaul a 135-year-old law that many believe inadvertently spurred the Jan. 6, 2021, attack of the U.S. Capitol.

The lawmakers say that changing the Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) is needed to prevent a constitutional crisis the next time Congress meets to certify a presidential election. The proposal would make it harder for lawmakers to object to certifying a state election and would clarify the role of the vice president in the counting of Electoral College votes.

“Experts across the political spectrum agree that the Electoral Count Act of 1887 needs to be updated to reflect the current realities and threats facing the United States and our election process,” said the senators.

Authoring the proposal are Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, and two Democratic committee chairs: Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Rules Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar.

For months, the senators have been discussing how to rewrite the ECA’s guidelines for counting and certifying Electoral College votes after a presidential election. Democrats and Republicans say the law has to be updated to remove ambiguity regarding the role of the vice president.

Under the law, the vice president presides over the Electoral College certification process. Exactly what that means was widely debated in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2020 election.

Former President Donald Trump and his allies argued that the vice president could reject electors from states with “irregularities” about how the election was run.

Then-Vice President Mike Pence and others took a different view. They said the ECA allowed the vice president only to preside over the count, not adjudicate its legitimacy. In making the argument, many noted that the ECA stipulates that only Electoral College tallies affirmed by governors can be accepted for certification.

The proposal authored by Senate Democrats would clarify the ambiguity by expressly stating the vice president’s role is only to “open electoral vote ballots as required by the Constitution.”

Senate Democrats also propose to increase the number of lawmakers required to object to a state’s presidential electors.

Under existing law, only the objections of one member of the House and one member of the Senate are needed to force a vote on certifying the electors. Democrats want the threshold raised to be one-third of each chamber of Congress.

The proposal also significantly narrows the reason why lawmakers can object.

SEE ALSO: Senators vexed by Biden’s unwillingness to rework VP’s role in Electoral College count

Senate Democrats say their proposal is only a draft and open to further debate. They also say that it should not be a substitute for a larger rewrite of the nation’s voting laws.

“We continue to support legislation to protect voting rights prior to Election Day, and strongly believe that we must clarify ambiguities in the electoral process after Election Day to truly ensure the will of the voters will prevail,” they said.

The proposal comes as a group of 15 bipartisan senators is working on a separate rewrite of the ECA. The group is led by Republican Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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