Several Senate Republicans have indicated that they may be open to a revision of the Electoral Count Act (ECA), a 19th-century measure that laid out many of the United States’ modern electoral practices. While Republicans unanimously oppose wider-reaching election bills, a revision of the ECA is seen by some as a much more moderate and acceptable alternative.
After two days of debate over the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, Democrats tried to bring both bills to a floor vote. Unsurprisingly, both bills failed to pass after Republicans filibustered the legislation unanimously, as they have done to every elections bill Democrats have brought to the floor.
To overcome the objections of half of the U. S. Senate, Democrats then tried to pass a motion to change the filibuster in order to allow the measures to pass by a simple majority. But this maneuver also failed after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voted against it with all 50 Republicans.
After both measures failed, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N. Y.) vowed in a tweet that Senate Democrats “will keep fighting until voting rights are protected for every single American.”
However, with no signs that Manchin and Sinema will change their minds on the filibuster, and with no indication that any Republicans will support Democrats’ more expansive voting bills, Democrats have only one option left on the table to pass any election reform: a revision of the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
Enacted 10 years after the electoral crisis of the 1876 election, when states sent competing slates of electors to Congress, the ECA laid out basic guidelines for electoral counting procedures moving forward. Effectively, the ECA told states that they would need to deal with electoral disputes on their own.
Congress would only get involved in electoral disputes under limited circumstances. For instance, if a governor certified and sent to Congress competing slates of electors, the ECA gave Congress the power to adjudicate the dispute.
The scheme to revise the law is still in its early phases, and Democrats have been less excited by the idea than they are about more comprehensive election bills. However, an ECA revision would seemingly garner far more Republican support than any of the Democrat-sponsored election bills, which GOP critics say are designed to unfairly benefit Democrats over Republicans.
Thus far, several prominent Republicans have given some indication that they would be onboard with the proposal, though few have solidly committed to the plan.
The effort to reform the ECA has been driven on the Republican side by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a critical swing vote. Collins has worked with Democrats to move the plan forward, and would almost certainly support an ECA revision if it came to a vote.
Discussing the plan with reporters, Collins said, “I’m very encouraged at the amount of interest that there is on both sides of the aisle,” indicating that other Republicans are equally enthusiast… (Read more)