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Electoral Count Act: Two-Part Group of Senators Cut Deal in Response to Jan. 6

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The bill has yet to be approved by both houses, and it takes 60 votes in the Senate to break any filibuster attempt, meaning at least 10 Republicans are needed to support legislation. The announcement of the plan marks the start of what is expected to be a challenging, month-long process to get the deal into law before the end of the year.

The deal is the culmination of months of negotiations led by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, along with an additional six Democrats and eight Republicans. The proposal unveiled on Wednesday is split into two bills.

One of the bills aims to modernize and revise the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law that Trump had attempted to exploit and confuse how Congress counts the votes of each state’s Electoral College. As part of that proposal, senators are trying to make it clear that the vice president only has a ceremonial role in overseeing the certification of election results.

The proposal also includes key provisions designed to promote an orderly transition of presidential power by outlining guidelines for when eligible candidates can receive federal funds for a transition to office.

If neither candidate relents within five days of election day, both candidates could gain access to transitional federal funds until “it is almost certain who will win the majority of the electoral votes,” according to a fact sheet. Ultimately, only one candidate will qualify if there is “a clear winner of the election”.

Amid revelations about an attempt by Trump allies to advance illegitimate voters in key states, the bill seeks to prevent a similar situation from happening again in the future.

It would also make it more difficult for members of Congress to attempt to undo an election by increasing the number of House and Senate members needed to object to the election results when a joint session of Congress meets to to certify them. Under current law, only one senator can join one member of the House to force each party to vote on whether or not to discard results subject to objection.

The bill is co-sponsored by the nine Republicans and seven Democrats who announced the deal.

According to the fact sheet, the proposal on the vice president’s role would make it clear that the responsibility “is solely ministerial responsibility and that he or she does not have the power to determine, accept, reject or otherwise resolve disputes over voters alone.” adjudicate.”

The second bill aims to improve election security and would increase federal penalties for anyone who threatens or intimidate election officials, as well as increases penalties for tampering with election records. The bill is co-sponsored by five Republicans and seven Democrats.

While constitutional experts say the vice president cannot currently ignore a state-certified election result, Trump urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct the certification of the Electoral College in Congress as part of his pressure campaign. . But Pence refused and as a result became a target of the former president and his mob of supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said the bill would make it more difficult to undo an election when a joint session of Congress meets to certify a presidential election.

“Anything we can do and show the American public that we realize how serious that day was, and that we will do everything we can to prevent a repeat of January 6 is a step in the right direction,” he said. .

“A future vice president cannot, may, and will not be able to nullify legitimate votes of Americans and their constituents who vote states,” Warner said.

More details on what’s in the deal

The bill that aims to revise the Electoral Count Act would include a number of changes to ensure Congress clearly “identifies a single, conclusive list of voters from each state,” according to a fact sheet.

This comes as revelations surface about an attempt by Trump allies to undermine the Electoral College process and install fake GOP voters in seven swing states.

The newly unveiled deal creates a series of provisions designed to make it harder to confuse the right voters. For example, it states that the governor of each state would be responsible for submitting a certificate identifying voters. Congress could not accept a voter list submitted by another official. “This reform would address the potential for multiple state officials to send Congress competing slates,” the fact sheet states.

The bill would also raise the bar for members of Congress to object to the certification of electoral votes.

The factsheet says the proposal “raises the barrier to appeal from voters to at least one-fifth of duly elected and sworn members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate”.

The Election Security Bill also contains a number of other important provisions.

One such proposal would re-authorize an independent body known as the Electoral Assistance Committee for a period of five years and require the committee to conduct cybersecurity tests for voting systems.

The bill also includes measures to help states improve ballot handling procedures.

What’s next for the proposal?

The Senate Rules Committee announced Wednesday after the deal was released that the panel plans to hold a hearing on the Electoral Count Act and efforts to review electoral laws in response to the Jan. 6 attack.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, the committee chair, told CNN the hearing will take place on Aug. 3.

The announcement is a sign that the newly released proposal is not on track to immediately go to the Senate floor for consideration and will instead take time to work its way through the legislative process as senators try to pass legislation before the end of the year. to assume.

Some senators believe the issue could end up in a slack session of Congress between the November and January elections.

This story was updated Wednesday with additional developments.

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