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Senators unveil bipartisan legislation to reform Electoral Count Act

by Atlanta Business Journal

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation designed to prevent a repeat of efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.

One of the two bills proposed on Wednesday would update the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to “ensure that electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote” and to replace unclear language clarifying the roles of federal and state officials in certifying presidential elections. The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act would also establish guidelines for a peaceful transfer of power by providing federal resources to the president- and vice president-elect.

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“From the beginning, our bipartisan group has shared a vision of drafting legislation to fix the flaws of the archaic and ambiguous Electoral Count Act of 1887,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Through numerous meetings and debates among our colleagues as well as conversations with a wide variety of election experts and legal scholars, we have developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for President and Vice President. We urge our colleagues in both parties to support these simple, commonsense reforms.”

This bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Warner (D-VA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

As legal challenges against the 2020 election results in several states were swept aside, Trump and his allies pushed a plan to enlist members of Congress and put pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence to stall the Jan. 6, 2021, certification and send electoral votes back to several battleground states where GOP-led legislatures could try to overturn the results over concerns about fraud and irregularities. Pence resisted the pressure and even sent a letter to Congress saying that he did not have the power to reject Electoral College votes.

Former White House adviser Peter Navarro has opened up about working with Trump ally Steve Bannon to implement what he dubbed the “Green Bay Sweep.” Navarro claimed the rioters who swarmed the Capitol, disrupting the counting of electoral votes, messed up the plan. Lawmakers, along with Pence, reconvened that night and certified President Joe Biden’s victory. Pence flipped the traditional vice president’s script during Congress’s count of electoral votes, saying repeatedly that the result certified by the Electoral College, “the parliamentarian has advised me, is the only certificate of vote from that state that purports to be a return from the state, and that has annexed to it a certificate from an authority of the state purporting to appoint and ascertain electors.”

The Capitol riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election results are now the subjects of multiple investigations, including by the House Jan. 6 committee.

Lawmakers also introduced the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act, which seeks to double the federal penalty for individuals who threaten election officials, poll watchers, voters, or candidates from the current one-year maximum sentence to up to two years in prison. The bill would also improve mail-in ballot processes under the U.S. Postal Service.

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Additionally, the provision aims to clarify current law that requires electronic election records to be preserved by increasing penalties for individuals who steal, destroy, or conceal election records.

The second bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Collins, Manchin, Portman, Shaheen, Romney, Sinema, Murkowski, Warner, Tillis, Murphy, Coons, and Cardin.

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