Washington, D.C.—On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) led a bipartisan group of 16 Senators in introducing legislation to reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887. Since then, endorsements from legal scholars, campaign experts, and organizations from across the political spectrum have rolled in to express support for this bipartisan effort.
Why Congress should swiftly enact the Senate’s bipartisan ECA reform bill
Election Law Blog |By: Law Professors Ned Foley, Michael McConnell, Derek Muller, Rick Pildes, and Brad Smith.
The bipartisan group of Senators, led by Senators Collins and Manchin, have released a draft bill for a revised Electoral Count Act (ECA). We want to state here why we, a bipartisan group of law professors, support it and urge Congress to enact it this summer.
Here are the main features of the draft, which are a vast improvement on the existing Act from 1887. These features appropriately respond to the need to update the Act to protect the integrity of future presidential elections.
If this bill is enacted and future Congresses are faithful to its philosophy when they meet in joint session to count electoral votes as required by the Twelfth Amendment, there should no longer be a threat of congressional efforts to negate the result of a state’s popular vote that has been determined in accordance with the rule of law. Inevitably, in a bill of this size and scope, there are particular provisions that we might draft a bit differently. But the essential elements of this bill are what we believe a well-revised Electoral Count Act should accomplish.
In sum, the bipartisan bill would be a major improvement over the antiquated Electoral Count Act. ECA reform has to be truly bipartisan and not merely to the barest extent needed to overcome a potential Senate filibuster. At the end of the day, the ECA is self-enforcing; the Act works only as long as Congress is willing to bind itself to the Act’s terms. That makes buy-in from both sides of the aisle essential. The fact that the large group of bipartisan Senators has gotten this far is a promising sign that Congress might well solidify the legal framework for future presidential elections.
A Promising New Electoral Count Act Reform Proposal
National Review | By: Yuval Levin, director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.
A couple of weeks ago, I noted around here that time was short for the effort to reform the Electoral Count Act, and that getting that effort moving would require a concrete proposal from the bipartisan group of senators that has been working on the issue for months. On Wednesday, that group produced just such a proposal, and it strikes me as constructive, balanced, and very promising.
Reform the Electoral Count Act
Wall Street Journal | By: Former President Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), has made a good start to correct the act. According to news reports, they’ve agreed on limits to the vice president’s role in counting presidential electors. That would codify Mike Pence’s correct interpretation that he didn’t have the legal authority to throw out a state’s electoral slate on Jan. 6.
The need to reform the Electoral Count Act is too great for our elected leaders to get bogged down in the zero-sum game of politics that characterizes Washington today. There will be a time and place to debate important proposals addressing voter access and turnout, ballot security and other election-related issues. But such competing efforts should not be included in current talks about reforming the Electoral Count Act. Doing so would be a recipe for gridlock and failure.
A bill to prevent Trump’s attempted coup is finally ready — and must pass.
Washington Post | By: The Editorial Board
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) have been laboring for months to overhaul the country’s arcane system of counting and certifying votes for president and vice president. Finally, they’ve released a product — and it’s a fine one. Their bill not only guards against the gambits the lame duck White House attempted in 2020, but it also limits the potential for other nefariousness by a future candidate. A companion bill addresses the security of election workers and the U.S. Postal Service and reauthorizes the Election Assistance Commission.
The Electoral Count Reform Act must pass — even if it’s not perfect
WaPo | By: The Editorial Board
The Electoral Count Reform Act is a bipartisan compromise that comes in response to hyperpartisan division. It’s no surprise that the legislation isn’t perfect. What it is, however, is essential.
Critics from academics to activists have had plenty to say so far about the bill that Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) presented last month. They’ll likely have plenty to say in Wednesday’s hearing on the subject as well. These concerns deserve consideration, but the ECRA, at its core, ensures that presidential elections proceed according to clear rules set ahead of time, rather than political exploitation after the fact. Lawmakers should seize on so significant an improvement over the dangerously muddled status quo.
Preventing the Next Jan. 6 Riot
At last there’s a serious proposal to reform the Electoral Count Act
WSJ | By: The Editorial Board
Like a buried artillery shell from a long-ago war, the 1887 Electoral Count Act (ECA) was a law waiting to explode. By giving Congress a process for rejecting Electoral College votes, the ECA created a constitutional hazard that detonated on Jan. 6, 2021.
This week 16 Senators, led by Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin, unveiled legislation to overhaul the ECA and stop future electoral mischief. The bill isn’t perfect, but it’s worth passing.
Safeguarding the electoral count before it’s too late
Bipartisan bill aims to update 1887 law and protect the vote count from would-be autocrats.
Boston Globe | By: The Editorial Board
Even as the House committee investigating the day the peaceful transfer of power was at risk, another bipartisan group of 16 senators, led by Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has been at work crafting a bill that would update the electoral counting process and put significant safeguards in place to prevent that process from being hijacked.
But this restructuring of the Electoral Count law can close some loopholes and eliminate those ambiguities ripe for exploitation by the next candidate-turned-tyrant bent on overturning the will of the people. It is an essential piece of legislation that should be in place long before the next presidential election rolls around.
Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
This important piece of legislation would close several of the most important loopholes in the 19th century law that governs the official counting and certification of electoral votes and reduce the risk of politicians overturning a fair and democratic election.
POGO applauds the work you and your colleagues have done for the past several months to reach this consensus. We are encouraged that your bill would replace ambiguous provisions of the Electoral Count Act of 1887 with clear procedures that maintain appropriate state and federal roles in selecting the president and vice president of the United States as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
By working together, you’ve demonstrated the Senate can still work in a bipartisan way to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing our democracy and the American people. I urge your colleagues to support this bill.
“We thank Sen. Collins and the bipartisan working group for introducing this vital proposal, and we urge Congress to pass it without delay. The introduction of this bipartisan legislation represents months of tireless work by experts spanning the political spectrum to develop necessary and commonsense updates to the Electoral Count Act…”
“Business Roundtable applauds the bipartisan group of Senators who have worked together to craft legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887. The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act makes important updates to the law to eliminate any ambiguities around Congress’s role or procedures. This legislation demonstrates the potential for bipartisan efforts to preserve trust and confidence in our nation’s democratic system, and we commend the Senators who worked together to develop pragmatic solutions.”
“…This bipartisan Senate framework is a critical step for shoring up ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act. These senators, especially Sens. Manchin and Collins, should be commended for finding common ground on a matter that is so foundational to our democracy: faith in the system that selects our leaders.”
“We are impressed with the draft Electoral Count Act reform legislation developed by a bipartisan Senate working group, including Senators Collins, Manchin, Romney, and Murphy…”
“The bipartisan senate working group’s proposal is an exciting breakthrough, and offers a strong framework for an ECA update that will protect U.S. elections, help avert a constitutional crisis, and maintain the peaceful transfer of power, one of the hallmarks of our democratic republic.”
“…[W]e are glad that Senators filed legislation today that would fix many dangerous ambiguities in the antiquated Electoral Count Act of 1887. Importantly, ECA reforms like those proposed today will not benefit either political party, but will better safeguard the will of the voters and ensure the peaceful transition of power—a hallmark of our democracy since its founding.”
The question then, for leaders in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, is whether to pass the bill largely as written or to hold out for something better. To be sure, the bill likely needs some technical changes—and its original negotiators may even be open to some substantive amendments. But the bill is a solid proposal that solves a serious problem. Members of Congress should err on the side of accepting this proposal, and resist the temptation to make the perfect the enemy of the good.