Election Reformers Network (ERN) cheered the passage in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday of a bipartisan bill to prevent subversion of the results of a presidential election, and urged the U.S. Senate to pass their version promptly.
The Presidential Election Reform Act would fix dangerous flaws and vague language in the 1887 law, known as the Electoral Count Act (ECA), which governs the counting of presidential electoral votes. Ambiguities in the ECA helped lead to the events of January 6, 2021, in which an armed mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to block the certification of results by Congress.
ERN helped make the public case for reforming the ECA, through a series of oped pieces over the last two years. One of these, which appeared in The Washington Post in July 2020, urged Congress to extend the safe harbor deadline for states to submit their presidential results without them being challenged. Weeks later, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) cited the piece, co-authored by ERN Executive Director Kevin Johnson and Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute, when he introduced legislation to extend the deadline.
The prospects for ECA reform at first seemed dim following the bitter deadlock in the Senate last year over the Democrat’s voting rights bill. In an oped published in The Hill in January 2021, ERN called on Democrats in the Senate not to reject GOP overtures on ECA reform despite their disappointment and distrust. Successful passage of ECA reform will provide both a critically needed structural change and an important victory for bipartisanship.
With Congress on the verge of shoring up the presidential results process against partisan manipulation, it’s crucial that states, too, take steps to protect election results by reducing the role of parties and partisans in their own state- and local-level certification processes.