“There are two easy steps to avoiding chaos this election. We haven’t taken them yet.”

Glad to see more support for my view that, for this fall’s election, Congress should move back the dates in the Electoral Count Act that govern the Electoral College process. From today’s Washington Post:

Second, Congress can take a simple step to provide those officials with that time, particularly when it comes to the presidential election. Election Day, Nov. 3, should not be changed. But electing our president involves a series of steps following that day, which take place on a schedule established by law, not by the Constitution, and which Congress can adjust for this year’s special circumstances.

The first significant date on that schedule marks the end of the “safe harbor” period established by federal law, during which states are assured their reported presidential election results will not be challenged in Congress. This year that deadline is Dec. 8. Six days later, on Dec. 14, the 538 members of the electoral college meet in their state capitals to vote. Those votes are not officially tallied by Congress until three weeks after that, on Jan. 6, and the inauguration follows on Jan. 20.

That means 78 days pass between the election and inauguration, but states have only 35 of those days to process all the ballots and resolve all disputes and recounts — or 41 days if they forgo their safe-harbor protections.

If states confront serious logistical challenges, those 35 days could easily prove inadequate. Mailed ballots require signature verification, contacting voters whose handwriting is challenged and time for voters to respond. Some states already have efficient systems in place, including automated signature matching, but those procedures have been carefully built over several years. Other states are now trying to quickly set up new processes, equipment and training, and, inevitably, there will be problems and delays.

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