Changes to the federal regulations governing how the Electoral College votes are compiled and counted were formerly deemed unlikely to pass Congress.
But bipartisan support is growing, with broad agreement that something must be done to modify the 135-year-old protocol. A violent crowd assaulted the US Capitol and disrupted the procedure.
Trump’s recent remarks paradoxically aided the argument for removing ambiguity. Members of Congress believe Vice President Mike Pence has the capacity to reject ballots from battleground states and influence the 2020 election outcome, he claimed.
“Now they want it now. He could have overturned the election if he had used his power! Trump said.
Others think Trump’s allegation shows the law needs to be reviewed.
The vice president is not empowered to challenge or reject votes under the Constitution or federal law, and current reform proposals would make it clear that as Senate president, the vice president is only responsible for convening the counting session, maintaining order, opening the envelopes, and announcing the vote.
A Senate draught measure would further limit such powers. Assuming the Senate’s president pro tem presided over the joint session, the vice president’s responsibility would be limited to opening each state’s ballots.
The Senate bill would also give states more time to conduct recounts and resolve legal problems after the polls close by delaying the day they must appoint their electors until Dec. 20. Unfair electors sent to Congress could be challenged in federal court by a presidential contender.
Any attempt by a state legislature to replace its own slate of electors would be invalid. To prevent rogue ballots from being counted, the proposed bill clearly declares worthless any votes that do not follow a state’s recognized process.
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The Senate bill, sponsored by Illinois Democrats Dick Durbin and Amy Klobuchar, and Maine Independent Angus King, attempts to further limit the reasons Congressmen can use to deny counting a state’s electoral votes. Objections require the signatures of one-third of members of both legislatures and are upheld by three-fifths of both chambers.
A simple majority vote in both chambers of Congress is required to overturn a single member’s opposition to a vote.
Adav Noti, an expert on election law at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, praised the effort. « It’s nice to see members of Congress taking the issue seriously, » said Noti.
The issue looks to be popular in the Senate. Separate senators working on their own set of election law revisions met Thursday and said initial discussions centered on defining the problem.
“Each state has its own method of certifying election results. Our focus is on understanding history and how it relates to where we want to go,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
A legal specialist stated the Senate draught was “far, much more convoluted than it has to be” on the Election Law Blog. But he commended its goal: “ensuring that courts, not than politicians, decide whose slate of electors is valid.”
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