“Momentum Builds for Overhaul of Rules Governing the Electoral Count”

Carl Hulse for the NYT:

Determined to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, backers of an overhaul of the federal law governing the count of presidential electoral ballots pressed lawmakers on Wednesday to repair the flaws that President Donald J. Trump and his allies tried to exploit to reverse the 2020 results.

“There is nothing more essential to the orderly transfer of power than clear rules for effecting it,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and one of the lead authors of a bill to update the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, said Wednesday as the Senate Rules Committee began its review of the legislation. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate and the House to seize this opportunity to enact the sensible and much-needed reforms before the end of this Congress.”

Backers of the legislation, which has significant bipartisan support in the Senate, believe that a Republican takeover of the House in November and the beginning of the 2024 presidential election cycle could make it impossible to make major election law changes in the next Congress. They worry that, unless the outdated statute is changed, the shortcomings exposed by Mr. Trump’s unsuccessful effort to interfere with the counting of electoral votes could allow another effort to subvert the presidential election.

“The Electoral Count Act of 1887 just turned out to be more troublesome, potentially, than anybody had thought,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the senior Republican on the rules panel. “The language of 1887 is really outdated and vague in so many ways. Both sides of the aisle want to update this act.”

But despite the emerging consensus, lawmakers also conceded that some adjustments to the proposed legislation were likely given concerns raised by election law experts. In attempting to solve some of the old measure’s problems, experts say, the new legislation could create new ones.

“It needs to be fixed,” Norm Eisen, an election and ethics expert and former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, said of the Electoral Count Act after his testimony Wednesday. “But it needs to be fixed correctly.”

And in the House, a group of lawmakers led by members of the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack were drafting their own bill, which was expected to have major differences from the one agreed upon by a bipartisan group of senators.

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