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December 22, 2022

King Celebrates Passage of Electoral Count Act Reforms to Protect Democracy

The bipartisan bill was included in the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Package, containing many recommendations made in King’s ECA discussion draft released in February

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight of federal elections, today celebrated the Senate passing a package of democracy protections to ensure election results can’t be exploited by bad-actors and prevent another January 6th, 2021. The bipartisan Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act – which contains several policy recommendations from Senator King’s ECA discussion draft released in February – clarifies ambiguities in the outdated 1887 Electoral Count Act (ECA) to protect the will of voters and updates procedures for the counting and certification of electoral votes for the presidency.

The ECA Reform Act passed the Senate in a bipartisan 68-29 vote as part of the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Package.

“Today, the Senate took a necessary, historic, and commonsense step to remove dangerous ambiguities from the process governing presidential elections and protect our fragile American democracy. The Electoral Count Reform Act is the most important piece of legislation we’ve passed this Congress because it protects the foundation of our entire democratic system,” said Senator King. “After attempts to overturn a free and fair election in 2021 exposed dangerous vulnerabilities in the antiquated Electoral Count Act, this bill was essential to defuse the ticking timebomb at the heart of our system of government. Now, as some continue to raise doubts about our electoral system, the bill ensures the ECA can never again be used as a weapon by disappointed candidates. The bipartisan Electoral Count Reform Act we passed today prevents abuse of the 1887 law by making the process for certifying a presidential election clearer and more resistant to manipulation and mischief.

“Make no mistake, this bill is no substitute for the comprehensive voting rights and process reforms we need to confront the wider challenges facing our democracy,” Senator King continued. “While I continue to look for ways to better protect the democratic process for all Americans, this effort will further guarantee that the will of the voters cannot be undermined once they’ve made their choice. After over a year of work on this bill, I’m proud my colleagues and I could find bipartisan consensus to stave off a looming crisis in our presidential election process. I want to thank Senators Durbin and Klobuchar who partnered with me on our first draft of the bill, the dozens of historians, lawyers, and experts who shared their knowledge, and all my Senate colleagues, particularly Senators Collins and Manchin, who helped get this critical effort across the finish line.”

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act updates the outdated and vague 1887 Electoral Count Act to ensure that electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect the will of the voters in each state. The bill replaces ambiguous provisions with clear procedures to ensure the counting of electoral votes can’t be exploited. Key provisions in the bill include:

  • Clarifying the Role of the Vice President.
    • Affirmatively states that the constitutional role of the Vice President in the counting of electoral votes is ceremonial, with no power to adjudicate conflicts that might arise.
  • Raising the Objection Threshold.
    • Raises the threshold to object to a state’s electors to at least one-fifth of the duly chosen and sworn members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate – up from one member of each chamber.
  • Ensuring a Single, Accurate Slate of Electors.
    • Designates each state’s governor as responsible for submitting a single slate of electors to Congress.
    • Ensures a state’s executive can’t submit a slate of electors in violation of state and federal law.
  • Expediting Judicial Review.
    • Provides an expedited review process, including a three-judge panel with appeal to the Supreme Court, of certain claims related to a state’s slate of electors.
  • Preventing Moving or Canceling of Elections.
    • Requires “extraordinary and catastrophic” events for a state to move their election, and removes a provision that allows states to declare failed elections.

Senator King has been a leader on reforming the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887, and in February, released a discussion draft with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to inform Senate-wide efforts to update the law to reflect 21st century threats. Last month, in a hearing of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, King questioned election experts on ECA reform proposals and what provisions must to be in any final bill to effectively protect America’s electoral process.

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