A bipartisan push to reform a 135-year-old federal law and prevent future attempts to overturn a presidential election during the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes may be yielding fruit.

The effort, led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has produced a draft bill supported by sixteen senators, including nine Republicans. Democrats control the chamber by the narrowest of margins, and electoral reform legislation will likely require the support of at least 10 Republicans to overcome filibusters.

The bill would try to prevent a repeat of former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn an election he lost by taking advantage of ambiguous wording in the relevant law, the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which lays out how Congress counts the official Electoral College ballots the 50 states send to Washington early in January after each presidential election. It was this certification process Trump and his congressional allies leveraged on Jan. 6, 2021, in a multipronged campaign that included encouraging an armed mob of supporters to attack the Capitol and hunt down Vice President Mike Pence.

The proposed reforms – announced by Collins and Manchin in a joint statement Wednesday – would include making explicit that vice presidents don’t have the power to judge or overturn the electoral college results. It also raises the bar for lodging objections to Electoral College results from one member of Congress to at least a fifth of the members and eliminates a loophole that state legislatures could use to throw out election results simply by declaring the election to be “failed.”

“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,” Collins and Manchin said in their 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, common-sense reforms.”

Collins was not available for an interview about the legislation on Wednesday. The bill is co-sponsored by fourteen other senators: Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Todd Young, R-Ind.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.


Sen. Angus King of Maine has long championed reforms to the Electoral Count Act but was not part of the bipartisan group led by Collins and Manchin.

“I commend the group for putting together its own serious proposal in the months since our initial discussion draft,” King said in an emailed statement. “I hope this will help build consensus around approaches that will reinforce the seams in the fabric of democracy we’ve seen stretched too thin.”

“The January 6th Commission has added urgency to what we made clear in the draft proposal we released in February,” King said. “There are straightforward and sorely needed steps we can take to protect and modernize the electoral count process – steps that the election law experts across the political spectrum we worked with can support.”

King sits on the Senate Rules committee, which will review the Collins-Manchin proposal. Spokesman Matthew Felling said the committee would hold hearings in August, when King will be able to bring to bear the 18 months of research his office has conducted on the Electoral Count Act issue.

The bipartisan group also introduced a bill that would enact reforms to protect election workers, poll watchers, mail-in ballots, and election records from various types of mischief. This second bill, titled the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act, has only 12 co-sponsors as four Republican members of the group did not sign on: Graham, Sasse, Capito and Young.

If the Senate were to pass the Electoral Count Act bill, action would move to the House, where both of Maine’s representatives – Democrats Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden – have previously expressed support for addressing the issues it raises.


“Last year, our nation watched in horror as former President Donald Trump incited a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent a peaceful transition of power,” Pingree said in an emailed statement. “He sat on the sidelines as members of law enforcement were attacked and killed, and the lives of many members of Congress and their staff were put in danger.

“It’s clear that our federal election system needs broad reform, and I’ve been proud to support legislation to secure the integrity of our elections, expand access to the ballot box, and improve transparency in campaign finance. I look forward to reviewing this bill in the coming days.”

The bill appears to have a reasonable chance of passing the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have given the Collins-Manchin group a long leash, suggesting they support the effort.

McConnell reiterated to reporters Tuesday that the Electoral Count Act “needs to be fixed,” though he did not indicate if he would endorse the new plan.

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