On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to alter the 1887 Electoral Count Act. The so called “Presidential Election Reform Act” revises rules pertaining to the congressional certification of presidential elections, which some contend will benefit Democrats. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who lost her primary race in August and leaves office on January 3, along with Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren, both of whom are on the January 6 Committee.
The bill, as characterized by Cheney:
- enacts new counting rules;
- requires that Congress receive a single certificate from each state;
- requires states to select electors under state laws prior to Election Day;
- permits elections to be extended in the event of so-called “catastrophic events”; and
- prevents election officials from refusing to certify presidential elections.
Cheney suggested this bill “will preserve the rule of law and defend election integrity.”
Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) issued a release on September 21, stating the bill does little to address election integrity, but serves instead to help House Democrats “stack the democratic process in their favor” as well as a “partisan messaging bill intended to score cheap political points.”
Tenney suggested that the bill “creates broad private rights of action in a backdoor effort to empower Democrat election lawyers and partisan operatives. ”
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) concurred with Tenney and indicated that the bill serves a partisan purpose and has little to do with safeguarding elections. He told Axios earlier this week, “It’s clear that anything Liz Cheney touches is all about whacking Donald Trump and not about making meaningful changes.”
While Cheney has touted the bill as bipartisan, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) suggested that saying so because she supports it is “like me saying a bill is bipartisan because [Republican Rep.] Jeff Van Drew, who used to be a Democrat, is on it.”
Davis also noted that Democrats’ criticisms of electoral objections were stained by hypocrisy, saying, “Democrats have objected to every single Republican presidential win in the 21st century.”
The bill insists that the vice president’s role in a presidential election is to count votes and that she does not wield the power to unilaterally reject certain state’s electors.
Additionally, it requires objections to receive the support of one-third of each chamber to be heard, whereas previously it was sufficient to have only one lawmaker in each chamber support an objection.
According to Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the bill “hasn’t gone through any committee” and received no input from Republicans.
Among the changes this bill makes to the 135-year-old law is an extension of time for a presidential election.
In the event of a “catastrophic event” that has “prevented a substantial portion of the State’s electorate from casting a ballot on such day, or caused a substantial portion of ballots already cast to be destroyed or rendered unreadable by such event,” a candidate for president who appears on the ballot of the State can ask for an extension.
One of the criteria that must be met is that “the ability of that candidate to win the election with respect to one or more presidential electors” must be shown to be potentially affected.
If the criteria are met, time for voting in the election can be extended, but for “not later than 5 days after” Election Day.
Tenney stated that not only is the bill’s definition of “catastrophic event” broad, but as a law it would trample “on the core principle of state sovereignty and directly contradicts the United States Constitution.”
Support only from exiting Republicans
229 voted in favor of Cheney’s bill, and 203 voted against it. Every Democrat supported the bill.
Besides Cheney, the Republicans who supported the bill were:
- Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), who loses his seat on January 3, 2023;
- Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), who lost in the Republican primary on August 2;
- Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), who lost in the Republican primary on June 14;
- Rep. Fred Upton (Wis.), who loses his seat on January 3;
- Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), who lost in the primary on August 2;
- Rep. Chris Jacobs (N.Y.), who loses his seat on January 3;
- Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), who loses his seat on January 3; and
- Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), who loses his seat on January 3.
Though the bill was passed, there is uncertainty over whether it will become law. After all, a comparable reform bill was introduced to the Senate in July, with ten co-sponsors from both parties.
The Senate bill raises the threshold for objections to electoral votes; asserts the vice president cannot unilaterally reject electors; and alters the 1887 law on the books.