Bipartisan Plan Clarifies 1887 Law to Prevent Another Jan. 6

It makes clear that VP's role in proceedings is symbolic
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2022 1:57 PM CDT
Bipartisan Legislation Seeks to Prevent Another Jan. 6
Sen. Susan Collins is the legislation's main Republican sponsor.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Defeated presidential candidates pressuring the vice president to reject the results will not become a regular feature of American elections under bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday. One of the two bills clarifies the 1887 law that Donald Trump tried to exploit to stay in power, the Washington Post reports. The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act makes it clear that the vice president's role in proceedings is "solely ministerial" and they do not have the unilateral power to reject electors, as Trump urged Mike Pence to do on Jan. 6, 2021, reports NBC. The bill also clarifies that a state's governor submits the slate of electors to Congress and allows expedited judicial review of challenges.

The legislation, led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, also raises the threshold for objections during certification of election results from one senator and one House member to a fifth of each chamber. The bill amends the 1963 Presidential Transition Act to ensure candidates from both parties can access transition resources "when the outcome of an election is reasonably in doubt." Collins and Manchin are among a group of 16 lawmakers from both parties who released the legislation after months of negotiations. In a statement, they urged colleagues to "support these simple, commonsense reforms."

A second bill, the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act, doubles the maximum penalty for people who intimidate poll watchers, election officials, or candidates to two years in prison, Politico reports. It also includes guidance on the handling of absentee ballots but does not address voter access, which had been a Democratic priority. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, tells NBC that she hopes to hold a hearing on the proposals before the August recess. "We'd like to get it done and move on this as soon as possible," she says, (More presidential elections stories.)

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