Until very recently, the Electoral Count Act was a dangerously vague piece of legislation. This led to its being exploited to create much of the turmoil surrounding the transfer of power after the 2020 election. Recognizing the danger, we helped drive urgently needed changes to the law that culminated in the passage of the Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022.
For more than a century, the Electoral Count Act of 1887 upheld an overly-complicated method for the certification of the Electoral College vote. In 2020 to 2021, the process became a political battleground for election challenges, contributing to the violence of January 6.
Through our sister organization, Defending Democracy Together, we were heavily involved in crafting the Electoral Count Reform Act that ultimately addressed these problems. Our efforts began with the creation and co-chairmanship of a bipartisan group of experts convened by the American Law Institute who reached consensus on a set of principles to guide the proposal. The Senators spearheading the reform effort lauded these principles, and they became part of the basis for the final law, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
At the invitation of members of Congress, we also advised on the development of the bill throughout the legislative process. We held meetings with members and proposed language to address technical and constitutional issues. And we led public advocacy and outreach around the reform, including public appearances and testimony in the only Congressional hearing devoted to ECA reform.
Ultimately, the law that passed addressed most major vulnerabilities presented by the ECA. It clarified the vice President’s role in the vote-counting procedure; guaranteed expedited review of disputes raised by losing candidates; raised the threshold for members of Congress to object to states’ slates of electors; and fast-tracked the disbursal of transition funds between administrations.