While issues like funding the government and providing aid to Ukraine have taken priority in recent weeks, there is a bipartisan effort building in Congress to overhaul a 135-year-old law that governs the certification of results in presidential elections.
The Electoral Count Act of 1887, which was created to ensure a peaceful transfer of power after an election dispute, was catapulted into the spotlight after President Donald Trump tried to use the law's ambiguous language to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
"Donald Trump continues to tell the big lie that he actually won the election. He's a sore loser, but he's a threat to democracy,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
A threat to democracy is what some in Congress have said the Electoral Count Act represents, if the law isn’t amended. Since the beginning of this year, representatives from both parties have been talking about ways to reform the law in a way that would ensure that what happened on Jan. 6th, 2021 never happens again.
"Right now, I'm heading a group that is working on updating the woefully deficient Electoral Count Act to make very clear that the Vice President has absolutely no authority to overturn election results,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Sen. Angus King, also of Maine, has been working towards the same goal in recent weeks. Last month, the independent released a draft of the Electoral Count Modernization Act with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Dick Durbin.
While two of the three are Democrats, Collins is a Republican and she insists the effort has bipartisan support.
“I really hope that this is something that can bring us together, it will make a big difference if we can get this passed to the integrity of the counting and certifying of federal elections,” Collins added.
In January 2021, Trump repeatedly pressured Vice President Mike Pence to abandon his ceremonial role of presiding over the certification of the election and reject the results. Pence rejected Trump’s demands but the episode exposed weaknesses in the Electoral Count Act. King said that the changes being considered would make it almost impossible for states to overturn election results, after the fact. Massachusetts Rep. Jake Auchincloss says it is vital Congress take up any concerns about the election process before the 2024 presidential election.
"We are concerned about the future of American democracy,” Auchincloss said.
Whether this effort succeeds remains to be seen. The legislation needs at least 10 Republican votes in the evenly divided Senate to surmount a filibuster. Some Republicans may be reluctant to support reforming any election laws in fear of crossing Trump.