“Lawmakers worry 2020 will provide a blueprint for stealing a future election”

NBC News:

Congress is trying to strengthen the law, though with little to show for its work. For much of the past year, Democratic lawmakers who control both houses focused instead on broader election reform aimed at expanding voting rights. That initiative collapsed. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has at times portrayed the parallel effort to revise the Electoral Count Act as an unwanted distraction.

“There were a number of parties and nefarious actors back in 2020 that tried to weaponize the Electoral Count Act in ways that were deeply problematic,” Rep. Joe Neguse, D., Colo., who was a House prosecutor in Trump’s second impeachment trial, told NBC News. “It appears one component of that was this notion of fake electors being sent from the states, so I think it’s an area that we have to reform, and we have very little time to do so.”

What seems most likely to pass, if anything, are a few fixes for which there is a broad consensus. Congress may clarify that the vice president plays merely a ceremonial role when it’s time to count the electoral votes and cannot, as Trump argued, unilaterally reject the outcome in certain states. Lawmakers may also raise the threshold so that it takes more than a single member of the House and Senate to object to a state’s electoral votes and thus delay the formal certification of the incoming president’s victory.

One solution that election experts have proposed is giving the courts the final say if there’s any dispute about which slate of electors should be counted. That way, in an era of extreme partisanship, members of Congress and governors aren’t the ones settling disputes about who gets to be president. 

“The most important question is how do we ensure there is no political actor in Congress or state government that can elevate those fake electors into something that might actually get counted,” said Matthew Seligman, a Yale Law School fellow who has been advising Congress on how best to revamp the Electoral Count Act, according to a Senate aide. “And, unfortunately, that’s exactly what the law permits.”

Whether the law gets changed in time for the next presidential election is by no means certain. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is part of a bipartisan group of senators working to revamp the Electoral Count Act. “It’s not clear” that the negotiations will result in passage of a bill, she told NBC News. “First of all, the group that has been working on it has to come to some agreement. And then we have to get agreement from the leadership on both sides.

 “I do see it as a problem,” Shaheen said of the alternate electors. “Whether we can get agreement on how to address it remains to be seen.”

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