Senate panel works over bill to assure peaceful transfers of power

Mike Pence hands the electoral certificate from the state of Arizona to Senator Amy Klobuchar on Jan. 6, 2021.

Mike Pence hands the electoral certificate from the state of Arizona to Senator Amy Klobuchar on Jan. 6, 2021. SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Electoral Count Act has become a concern, since the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers and legal experts at a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday outlined the need to pass legislation clarifying an archaic election law so that the peaceful transfer of presidential power is ensured.

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill being pushed by 16 senators, was proposed after the former president tried to exploit a law passed in the 19th century in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The law, the Electoral Count Act, has become a recent concern following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

“The will of the American people could have been overturned,” the chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, said in her opening statement at the hearing, speaking about the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Enemies of our democracy sought to exploit the provisions of this antiquated law to subvert the results of a free and fair election.”

The push to clarify the election certification process comes after Trump tried to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

The current law allows a congressional representative paired with a senator to object to a state’s electoral votes, which Republicans did.

But the vice president’s role isn’t necessarily clear, which is why Trump tried to pressure Pence into not certifying the election, along with sending a mob of pro-Trump supporters to storm the Capitol. Trump was impeached by the House for a second time for his role in the insurrection.

The bill would require 87 House members to object, rather than one, and would require 20 Senate members to object, rather than one.

The ranking member of the committee, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, said that the law needed to be updated and he was pleased to be doing so in a bipartisan manner.

“Written in a different age, the language of 1887, is really outdated and vague in so many ways,” Blunt said. “Both sides of the aisle want to update this act, and recent poling indicated that almost everybody that’s thought of this wants to update this act.”

A Collins-Manchin panel

The first panel was made up of the two senators pushing for the bill, Sens. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat.

The bill has several Republican cosponsors including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Todd Young of Indiana, among others.

Collins said it was an archaic and ambiguous law, and that the new bill has several reforms, including a clarification on the role of the vice president when certifying electoral votes.

“The idea that any Vice President would have the power to unilaterally accept, reject, change, or halt the counting of electoral votes is antithetical to our constitutional structure and basic democratic principles,” she said in her opening remarks.

Collins said one of the most significant portions of the bill “ensures that Congress can identify a single, conclusive slate of electors submitted by each state.”

“Finally, our bill strikes a provision of an outdated 1845 law that could be used by state legislatures to override their state’s popular vote by declaring a ‘failed election’ — a term that is not defined in that law,” she said. “The bill permits a state to modify the period of its election only in ‘extraordinary and catastrophic’ circumstances, and also only as provided for under the state’s law enacted prior to election day.”

Manchin added that the bill also “sets a hard deadline for state governors to certify their respective states’ electoral results — and if they fail to do so or submit a slate that does not match with the electoral results from the state, it creates an expedited judicial process to resolve.”

Voting rights

Klobuchar asked one of the witnesses, Janai Nelson, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., what additional legislation Congress should consider.

Nelson said that to protect the democratic process, Congress needed to pass two voting rights bills, the John Lewis Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

“The uniformity of those voting measures will restore and bring greater confidence to our electoral system,” Nelson.

Nelson added that since a Supreme Court 2013 decision, voting rights have been gutted. The preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down covered nine states and a handful of counties and municipalities with a history of discriminating against voters of color.

Those states included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Certain counties included in the preclearance requirement were in New York, Florida, North Carolina, California and South Dakota.

Nelson said that Congress should not stop with just strengthening the Electoral Count Act.

“Our democracy is presently in crisis because of a deep-seated, irrational, and discriminatory fear of the truly inclusive, multiracial, multiethnic democracy that our nation has never been, but our increasingly diverse electorate holds the promise to deliver,” she said.

“Congress must also address voting discrimination to fulfill its obligation to respond to the insurrection and rescue our democracy from present peril.”

The Senate has tried several times since 2020 to pass voting rights legislation, but has been blocked each time by Republicans. One Republican, Murkowski, said she would support Democrats in passing the John Lewis bill.

The Freedom to Vote Act would establish Election Day as a national holiday and set minimum standards that each state must have for elections, such as two weeks of early voting and an option for same-day voter registration.

The John Lewis bill, named in honor of the Georgia lawmaker and civil rights icon, would bolster the Voting Rights Act by establishing a new formula to require all 50 states to get special permission from the Justice Department before making any changes to voting laws or putting in place new voting requirements.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site. 

NEXT STORY: Al Qaeda leader killed in July 30 U.S. drone strike

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.