Election Counting Act: House lawmakers propose legislation to prevent recurrence on Jan. 6


Republican Rep. Wyoming and Democratic Rep. Liz Cheney. Zoe Lofgren of California has introduced legislation that would make it harder to overturn certified presidential elections in the future by proposing changes to the Election Counting Act.

They said the recommendations could help prevent a repeat of the attack on the U.S. Capitol and considered the legislation critical, noting that candidates currently running for public office at the state and federal level could influence future elections and arguing that the former president Donald Trump’s election was a lie. Cheney and Lofgren said it raised concerns about “another effort to steal the presidential election, and perhaps another attempt to undermine the process by which Congress counts electoral votes.”

The bill introduced by Cheney and Lofgren aims to introduce new laws and strengthen existing ones to prevent individual state officials or members of Congress from undermining election results.

“The Election Counting Act of 1887 shall be amended to prevent other unlawful attempts to overturn presidential elections in the future and to ensure the peaceful transfer of power to future presidents,” the bill reads.

Cheney and Lofgren also published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday as part of their legislative push.

Cheney and Lofgren wrote: “Our proposal seeks to preserve the rule of law for all future presidential elections by ensuring that selfish politicians cannot steal from the people the assurance that our government derives power from the consent of the governed. “We look forward to working toward this goal with our colleagues in the House and Senate.”

The bill is scheduled to go to a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, before lawmakers must decide how to reconcile differences with the Senate over proposed changes to election counting laws introduced by a bipartisan group of senators in July.

“We’re not going to break the compromise,” a House aide told CNN. “We think we’re raising the bottom line on what this bill looks like.”

The legislation significantly raises the bar required for members of Congress to oppose state electors. The bill would require the support of one-third of each chamber to raise an objection, and a majority vote to support the objection. It outlines five specific and narrow grounds for objection. The Senate version of the bill requires only one-fifth of each chamber’s support and does not limit grounds for opposition.

Currently, only one member per House is required to object, and there are no restrictions on the types of objections that can be raised. That’s why 147 Republicans in both chambers were able to object when Congress meets on January 6, 2021, to certify the election, citing various reasons for doing so.

The proposed bill addresses any potential delays a state may cause in counting and certifying its votes and creates language to enforce the election certification process.

The legislation states that no person “willfully fail to record, count or report any vote that is timely and valid under applicable state and federal law.”

While the House bill gives states more time to certify the election, the so-called safe harbor period, it proposes stricter guidelines on how to challenge state votes.

Only the presidential and vice presidential candidates listed on the ballot can challenge the state’s certification, which will be heard and decided by a three-judge panel in the district court and reviewed only by the Supreme Court. The legislation outlines a clear timeline for how courts need to expedite any election-related challenges. Currently, anyone can challenge the state’s certification in court.

If the governor refuses to certify election results that a court orders must be certified, the bill would authorize another state official to certify the results, barring the governor from obstructing the election certification process.

The new deadline for governors to certify their elections and elected state electors is Dec. 14, postponed from early December, and state electors must meet on Dec. 23 unless the date falls on a weekend. Once the state electors certify the election, the electoral list is sent to Congress.

The legislation also clearly defines a state’s voter list and clarifies that states can only send one list. Under the current bill, states have room to send out competing electoral rolls under certain circumstances.

This language is intended to address what happened in 2020 where the alternate electors submitted by some states for Trump were not the official electors submitted by the states. The fake voter program is known to be currently being investigated by the Justice Department and has been a lead in the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol Hill riots.

The House bill seeks to reaffirm the Constitution and make clear that the vice president has no authority to refuse official state electoral rolls, delay the counting of votes or issue any procedural rulings. The Senate bill also has a version of the clause.

“The 12th Amendment is straightforward; it just needs to count,” Cheney and Lofgren wrote.

After the 2020 election, Trump tried to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to turn away voters from states, something Pence never did.

The legislation proposed by Cheney and Lofgren also sets parameters for extending Election Day voting in very limited circumstances, including acts of terrorism or natural disasters, which do not currently exist in the Senate’s proposed bill.

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