Don’t Expect Those Electoral Count Act Reforms Anytime Soon

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 20: Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, talk with reporters about voting rights in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, January 20, 2022. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 20: Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The much heralded bipartisan effort to craft election reform legislation is going nowhere fast. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters this week that there’s “no urgency in getting it done.” 

Her lack of urgency belies the narrow scope of the bill. There doesn’t have to be a “specific timeline,” she added, because it’ll only apply to presidential elections.

And from the details she provided, it’ll only deal with a very small part of presidential elections. She noted that there’s been consensus around better defining the role of the vice presidency in certifying elections and increasing the number of lawmakers needed to object to the electoral college certification to trigger the state-by-state procedure. 

Beyond that, she said it gets “very complex very quickly.” The bipartisan group has employed the help of six legal advisors for the weedier questions.

Republicans have also already started grousing that Democrats are trying to do more extensive reform than they’re interested in, like establishing a pathway to challenge state election laws in federal court, per Politico.

Some of the gridlock stems from the parties’ most glaring and fundamental difference on the issue of elections. For congressional Republicans, with a few notable exceptions, reactions to the 2020 attempted hijacking range from “let’s just move on” to full-throated embrace of the insurrection as a patriotic endeavor. Neither convey a burning desire to shore up the system. 

That resistance may keep some of the most meaningful reforms — like the proposal from the separate effort spearheaded by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Angus King (I-ME), which would bar state legislatures from appointing a new slate of electors after Election Day — out of the final bill. 

The Democratic side of the effort is led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a legislator known less for his speed in legislating than his fondness for circuitous and endless negotiations. He has expressed hope for a deal on the legislation as soon as this week, but his fellow senators’ comments suggest that is a very remote possibility. 

Manchin has championed the reform bill — alongside the vague idea of legislation to combat inflation — as his personal priorities in recent weeks. 

But when asked by a reporter if the bill could get done some time this year, all Collins could offer is: “That would be my expectation.” 

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