How Congress is changing electoral law in response to Jan. 6

Dec 19, 2022, 7:34 PM | Updated: Dec 20, 2022, 9:42 am
FILE - Sunrise at the U.S. Capitol, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022 in Washington.  The House and the Senate ...

FILE - Sunrise at the U.S. Capitol, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022 in Washington. The House and the Senate are set to pass an overhaul of the Electoral Count Act, the arcane election law that then-President Donald Trump tried to subvert after his 2020 election defeat. Democrats and Republicans have been working on the legislation since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, where Trump supporters echoing his false claims of widespread election fraud interrupted the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In one of the last acts of the Democratic-led Congress, the House and the Senate are set to pass an overhaul of the Electoral Count Act, the arcane election law that then-President Donald Trump tried to subvert after his 2020 election defeat.

The legislation, which Democrats and Republicans have been working on since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, is the most significant policy response so far to the attack and Trump’s aggressive efforts to upend the popular vote.

Led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, along with members of the House Jan. 6 panel, the bipartisan legislation was added to a massive year-end spending bill that was unveiled early Tuesday and will be voted on this week.

The bill would amend the 19th century law that governs, along with the U.S. Constitution, how states and Congress certify electors and declare presidential election winners, ensuring that the popular vote from each state is protected from manipulation and that Congress does not arbitrarily decide presidential elections when it meets to count the votes every four years.

Supporters in both chambers — Democrats and some Republicans — have pushed to pass an overhaul before the start of the next Congress and ahead of the 2024 presidential campaign cycle, as Trump has announced that he is running again. More than a dozen GOP senators have publicly backed the legislation, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“We are now one step closer to protecting our democracy and preventing another January 6th,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who moved the bill through her committee.

A look at what the bill would do:

CLARIFY THE VICE PRESIDENT’S ROLE

Lawmakers and legal experts have long said the 1887 law is vague and vulnerable to abuse, and Democrats saw Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat ahead of Jan. 6, 2021, as a final straw.

Supporters of the Republican former president attacked the Capitol that day, echoing his false claims of widespread election fraud, interrupting the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory and calling for Vice President Mike Pence’s death because he wouldn’t try to block Biden from becoming president.

The bill clarifies that the vice president has a purely ceremonial role presiding over the certification every Jan. 6 after a presidential election and that he or she has no power to determine the results of the election — an effort to make that point emphatically in the law after Trump and some of his allies put massive pressure on Pence. Pence resisted those entreaties, but many lawmakers were concerned that the law wasn’t definitive enough.

The legislation states that the vice president “shall have no power to solely determine, accept, reject, or otherwise adjudicate or resolve disputes” over the counting of electors in Congress.

MORE DIFFICULT TO OBJECT

The legislation would also make it more difficult for lawmakers to object to a particular state’s electoral votes. Under current law, just one member of the Senate and one member of the House need to lodge an objection to automatically trigger votes in both chambers on whether to overturn or discard a state’s presidential election results. The bill would significantly raise that threshold, requiring a fifth of each chamber to object before votes would be held.

Raising the threshold for objections will do away with a partisan tradition that has rankled members on both sides. Democrats have objected the last three times that Republicans were elected — twice against George W. Bush and once against Trump. But in each of those cases the Democratic candidate had already conceded the election loss, and Trump to this day falsely claims he defeated Biden.

In 2021, Republicans objected to Biden’s electoral votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania, triggering votes in both chambers after the Capitol was cleared. The House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly to certify Biden’s win in those states, but members in both parties worried the process was too vulnerable to manipulation.

The House-passed version of the bill, written by Democrats and Republicans on the Jan. 6 panel, would have raised the threshold for a successful objection to a third of each chamber. But the final legislation is much closer to the Senate version overall, an effort to ensure that GOP senators backing the bill would stay supportive.

NO FAKE ELECTORS

The bill would ensure that there is only one slate of electors, a response to Trump allies’ unsuccessful efforts to create alternate, illegitimate slates of Trump electors in states that Biden narrowly won in 2020.

Each state’s governor would be required to submit the electors, which are sent under a formal process to Congress and opened at the rostrum during the joint session. Congress could not accept a slate submitted by a different official, so there could not be competing lists of electors from one state.

The bill would establish legal processes if any of those electors are challenged by a presidential candidate.

‘CATASTROPHIC’ EVENTS

The legislation would revise language in current law that wasn’t used during the 2020 election but that lawmakers think could be abused. Current law allows state legislatures to override the popular vote in their states by calling a “failed election,” but the term is not defined under the law.

The bill says a state could only move its presidential election day if there are “extraordinary and catastrophic” events, such as natural disasters, that necessitate that.

House lawmakers and legal experts have argued that language is too vague and have proposed that a judge should also have to sign off on any such delay. But the final version of the bill does not require that.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Pradnya Jagdale, a former Jackson abortion clinic escort, stands with a small group of protestors b...
Associated Press

In mostly abortion-free Mississippi, court battle continues

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A physicians’ group based in the Midwest lacks legal standing to challenge a 25-year-old Mississippi Supreme Court ruling recognizing a right to abortion under the state constitution, lawyers for six women who support abortion rights argued in court papers filed Friday. “This case was brought by an out-of-state organization that obviously […]
1 day ago
U.S. Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, speaks to the press as he visits to the Oskar Schindler Enam...
Associated Press

Emhoff says somber Auschwitz visit key to antisemitism work

KRAKOW, Poland (AP) — Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, described being deeply moved by a “solemn and sad” visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and said Saturday that it was an important part of his work combating antisemitism for the Biden administration. Emhoff told reporters that he will never forget his emotional visit to […]
1 day ago
This photo provided by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra shows new conductor Matthew Kraemer, wh...
Associated Press

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra gets new music director

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — For 17 seasons the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra has been under the musical direction of Carlos Miguel Prieto. That changes this summer when conductor Matthew Kraemer takes the reigns. The orchestra’s Board of Trustees recently announced that Kramer will take over in July and make his official introduction to music lovers in […]
1 day ago
FILE -Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a news conference in Statuary Ha...
Associated Press

Inside McCarthy’s House: Famous friends and hard realities

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an almost forgotten slice of marbled real estate at the Capitol, the Kevin McCarthy era is taking shape in Congress. It was here that the new House speaker was chatting last week with Donald Trump Jr. on the former president’s son’s podcast, their laughter spilling into the halls from behind closed […]
1 day ago
A migrant from Michoacan, Mexico, uses the CBPOne app Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Tijuana, Mexico. A...
Associated Press

Online system to seek asylum in US is quickly overwhelmed

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Hours before sunrise, migrants at one of Mexico’s largest shelters wake up and go online, hoping to secure an appointment to try to seek asylum in the U.S. The daily ritual resembles a race for concert tickets when online sales begin for a major act, as about 100 people glide their […]
1 day ago
FILE- Members of the Independent Higher Authority for Elections count the votes one day after the p...
Associated Press

Challenge for Tunisian democracy: Getting voters to show up

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia was once the Arab world’s hope for a new era of democracy. Now it’s in the midst of an election that’s more of an embarrassment than a model. Barely 11% of voters turned out in the first round of parliamentary elections last month, boycotted by opposition Islamists and ignored by […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
How Congress is changing electoral law in response to Jan. 6