Amendment To Electoral Act Of 1887 Under Consideration To Protect Elections

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Members of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot are preparing a push for changes to the Electoral Count Act of 1887 in order to help avert the possibility of another day like January 6, according to a new report from The New York Times. That law covers procedures for formally certifying the outcome of the presidential election, and it’s that process which Trump and his allies — including the rioters who stormed the Capitol complex — hoped to upend with their anti-democratic machinations. Trump wanted then-Vice President Mike Pence, in his role overseeing the certification proceedings, to block certain electoral votes — although Pence didn’t have the legally recognized power to actually do that.

The problem is that the uncertain way in which the Electoral Count Act was formulated could provide an excuse for similar pushes in the future, since Trump has repeatedly claimed there to be some kind of legal justification for his pressure on Pence. As former Tennessee Republican Congressman Zach Wamp put it, observers “know that we came precariously close to a constitutional crisis, because of the confusion in many people’s minds that was obviously planted by the former president as to what the Congress’s role actually was.” Thus, changes are in order, and Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — both of whom serve on the House’s riot investigation committee — are among those onboard.

As Schiff pointedly explained things:

‘There are a few of us on the committee who are working to identify proposed reforms that could earn support across the spectrum of liberal to conservative constitutional scholars. We could very well have a problem in a future election that comes down to an interpretation of a very poorly written, ambiguous and confusing statute.’

Among other issues, the Electoral Count Act allows for objections to certain electoral votes to be raised by members of Congress during the certification process, and if at least one member from the House and one member of the Senate back the objection, then the matter moves to a vote. Congress can set aside certain electoral votes if a majority in each chamber agrees, raising the stakes of what’s at issue.

As explained by The New York Times, options for changes to the underlying laws include “limiting the grounds for a lawmaker to object to counting a state’s votes and clarifying that the vice president’s role in the process is merely ministerial, and thus lacking the authority to unilaterally throw out a state’s votes.” A group called the National Task Force on Election Crises has promoted these suggestions, and supporters of some form of change to the relevant laws also include Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chair of the Senate Rules Committee. Read more here.