Advance Notice: Briefs

Upton proposes bipartisan bill to change the Electoral Count Act

By: - September 16, 2022 1:13 pm

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 26, 2022 (Photo by Marisa Demarco / Source New Mexico)

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) joined U.S. Rep Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) in proposing bipartisan change to the Electoral Count Act.

According to a statement, the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, or House Resolution 8846, would update ambiguous provisions in the 19th century law with clear procedures, and by outlining clear guidelines for when presidential and vice presidential candidates can receive federal resources to support their transition into office. 

These reforms received bipartisan support in the Senate 18 senators signing on.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton | Andrew Roth

Efforts to clarify the Electoral Count Act sprung up in the wake of attempts to overturn the 2020 election, including the Jan. 6 insurrection, and former President Donald Trump’s attempt to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to block certification of the presidential election results. On Jan. 6, Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol to stop the electoral vote count.

“Americans want certainty in elections, not vested parties’ interpretations of laws from the 1800s,” said Upton, who is retiring this year.

The bill provides clarity voters need in their vote on presidential matters, Upton said. 

Included in the proposed changes to the Electoral Count Act, is a provision stating the Vice President does not have power alone to determine whether to accept, reject or judge disputes over electors.

The bill also includes reforms to ensure Congress can identify a single, conclusive state of electors from each state. Now a state’s governor would be responsible for submitting a certificate of ascertainment that identifies the state’s electors, unless otherwise specified in a state’s laws or constitution. 

Another provision would accelerate the judicial review process for aggrieved presidential candidates with concerns over a state’s identifying certificate. It would also require Congress to defer to the slate of electors submitted by state executives, following the judgments of state and federal courts.

Additionally, this legislation would raise the threshold for members of congress to object to electors to one fifth of its total members. The current threshold requires one member of each chamber to object to an elector or a slate of electors.

It also removes a provision that would allow state legislatures to override the popular vote in their state by declaring a “failed election.” Instead the bill specifies a state could move its presidential election day if made necessary by “extraordinary and catastrophic events.”

In changes to policies around presidential transitions, the bill would allow more than one candidate to receive federal resources supporting their transition into office, but only during periods when the outcome is reasonably in doubt. Once the outcome of the election is “substantially certain” only one candidate may continue to receive transition resources. 

“With this bipartisan, bicameral legislation, both sides of the aisle are coming together to protect our great democracy, preserve the integrity of our elections, and prevent any attempts to undermine them,” said Gottheimer. “Our nation’s future depends on it and the time to act is now.”

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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson covers state government alongside health care, business and the environment. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He previously covered community events, breaking news, state policy and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.