Months of negotiations land bipartisan bills to safeguard presidential elections

U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Liz Cheney introduced H.R. 8873, the Presidential Election Reform Act (PERA), a bill that would make key changes to the antiquated Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1877, which governs how Congress counts Electoral College votes.

The bill stems from Lofgren and Cheney’s work on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack and is designed to ensure “such an attack never happens again.”

The House Rules Committee held a meeting on the bill today, Sept. 20 at 2 pm.

To prevent a losing presidential candidate from disrupting the counting process, the bill would

  • Clarify the Vice President’s role during the counting of electoral votes is purely ceremonial,
  • Raise the threshold to object to a state’s electoral votes to one-third of each chamber
  • And create explicit grounds upon which members of Congress may object to a state’s electoral votes. One permissible reason for an objection is if the presidential candidate previously participated in an insurrection.

The bill would also prevent states from changing how they pick electors after Election Day and allow presidential candidates to seek federal court relief against election officials who refuse to certify elections or count ballots.

In July, a bipartisan group of senators released their own proposal to reform the ECA.

While broadly similar, the two bills differ in several ways, such as differing objection thresholds. Both chambers of Congress will have to agree on legislation in order to send a bill to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Cheney and Lofgren, both of whom are also members of the January 6th Select Committee, published a joint op-ed in The Wall Street Journal to outline their legislation to strengthen the Electoral Count Act.

Following months of negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday also introduced two new bills meant to safeguard the certification of presidential election results.

The Senate reforms include new protections for presidential elections and the transition of power, clarifying that the vice president’s role is purely ceremonial, ensuring that no vice president would have the power to overturn the election.

Testimony given to the House Jan. 6 committee revealed that former President Donald Trump and his allies pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to interfere with the counting of electoral votes over objections from White House attorneys.

Support among Republican senators opens a window for the reforms to pass the evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome the filibuster.

The Electoral Count Act reform has nine Republican co-sponsors, led by. Sen. Susan Collins, who engaged in negotiations with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Other Republican senators supporting the reforms are Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Thom Tillis, Shelley Moore Capito, Todd Young, Ben Sasse, and Lindsey Graham.

Five of those nine Republican senators — Collins, Portman, Romney, Murkowski and Tillis —supported a second bill – the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act – that furthers penalties for threatening election officials or tampering with voting systems.

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