March 23, 2023

By Nicholas Riccardi | Associated Press

Congress on Friday gave final approval to legislation amending the secretive law governing the certification of a presidential contest, the largest effort yet to reverse a repeat of Donald Trump’s violent bid to reverse his loss in the 2020 election. to make, to prevent.

The House passed a revision to the Electoral Count Act as part of its massive year-end spending bill after the Senate passed identical wording on Thursday. The legislation now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Biden praised the inclusion of the provisions in the spending bill in a statement Friday, calling it “critical bipartisan action that will help ensure that the will of the people is preserved.”
It is the most significant legislative response Congress has yet made to Trump’s aggressive efforts to disrupt popular vote, and a move pushed for by the House selection committee, which has conducted the most thorough investigation into the violent siege of the Capitol.

The provisions amending the 1887 law—long criticized as poorly and confusingly written—gained bipartisan support and would make it more difficult for would-be presidential losers to avoid the ascension of their enemies, as Trump attempted to do on January 6 2021.

“It’s a monumental achievement, especially in this partisan atmosphere, for such a sweeping rewrite of a law so critical to our democracy,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “This law is a big step toward closing the avenues Trump and his allies tried to use in 2020, and could have been exploited in future elections.”

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On January 6, Trump targeted Congressional ratification of the Electoral College vote. He tried to exploit the vice president’s role in reading to voters of the states to get Mike Pence to stop Biden from becoming the next president by omitting some of the states that Biden won from the roll . The new provisions make it clear that the vice president’s responsibilities in the process are purely ceremonial and that the vice president has no say in who actually won the election.

The new legislation also raises the threshold for members of Congress to object to voter certification. Previously, only one member of the House and Senate, respectively, had to object to forcing a roll call vote from a state’s voters. That helped make objections to new presidents something of a routine partisan tactic — Democrats objected to certifying both George W. Bush’s and Trump’s 2016 elections.

Those objections, however, were mostly symbolic and came after the Democrats admitted that the Republican candidates had won the presidency. On January 6, 2021, Republicans forced a vote to certify Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania even after the violent attack on the Capitol as Trump continued to falsely maintain that he had won the election. That led some members of Congress to worry that the process could be too easily manipulated.

Under the new rules, one-fifth of each chamber would be needed to force a vote on the states’ electoral rolls.

The new provisions also ensure that only one electoral roll makes it to Congress after Trump and his allies unsuccessfully attempted to create alternate electoral rolls in the states won by Biden. Every governor would now have to sign voters, and Congress can’t account for slates filed by different officials. The bill creates a legal process if one of those voters is challenged by a presidential candidate.

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The legislation would also close a loophole that was not used in 2020 but that election experts feared, a provision that state legislators can nominate voters in defiance of their state’s popular vote in the event of a “botched” election. That term is understood to mean a match that was upset or so doubtful that there is no way to determine the actual winner, but it is not well defined in the earlier law.

Now a state could move the date of its presidential election, but only in the event of “extraordinary and catastrophic events,” such as a natural disaster.

Hasen said that while the changes are significant, there are still dangers to democracy, noting that in Arizona, the Republican nominee for governor, Kari Lake, was awaiting a ruling on Friday in a lawsuit she filed to challenge her victory. Democratic opponent, Katie. Hobbs.

“Nobody should think that passing this legislation means we’re out of the woods,” Hasen said. “This is not one and done.”