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House Passes Presidential Election Reform Act

The legislation aims to prevent 'future unlawful efforts to overturn Presidential elections’

The United States House of Representatives has passed new legislation designed to specifically define the role legislators have in the vote certification process.

The bill would alter the Electoral Count Act, a 135-year-old statute referenced by supporters of President Donald Trump who argued the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. 

The Presidential Election Reform Act was co-authored by Democrat Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California and Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Both women are members of the House Subcommittee investigating Jan. 6.

The bill was introduced on Sept. 19 and voted on just two days later. It passed 229-203 following a procedural vote on Sept. 21.

Lofgren said the bill “will make it harder to convince people that they have the right to overthrow the election.”

“Ultimately, this bill is about protecting the will of the American voters, which is a principle that is beyond partisanship. The bottom line is this — if you want to object to the vote, you better have your colleagues and the constitution on your side. Don’t try to overturn our democracy,” she said during the debate earlier this week.

Cheney argued that the bill also serves as a check on Congress, preventing the governing body from selecting a president. 

“If your aim is to prevent future efforts to steal elections, I would respectfully suggest that conservatives should support this bill,” Cheney said, per The Hill. “If instead your aim is to leave open the door for elections to be stolen in the future, you might decide not to support this or any other bill to address the Electoral Count Act.”

The Electoral Count Act of 1887 should be amended to prevent other future unlawful efforts to overturn Presidential elections and to ensure future peaceful transfers of Presidential power,” reads the PERA.

The bill dictates that the vice president is tasked with overseeing the Electoral College count in an administrative capacity and not validating the results. 

During the certification of the results of the 2020 general election, Vice President Mike Pence did not “reject fraudulently chosen electors” as suggested by Trump. Pence said he lacked the authority to comply with the president’s request.

The bill also mandates that governors transmit election results from their states and prohibits state legislatures from altering election results. Should a governor refuse to support a court order regarding electors, the bill permits the courts to “designate another state official to submit a legitimate certificate,” per Talking Points Memo

It also would expand the threshold necessary for members of both chambers to object to a state’s results, as well as clarify the role governors play in the process,” per The Washington Post

Every Democrat present voted in favor of the measure along with Cheney and the other Republican member of the Jan. 6 subcommittee, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. The additional support came from seven other Republicans – Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Tom Rice of South Carolina, John Katko of New York, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Chris Jacobs of New York.

Congressional Republicans opposed the bill, noting it left clear pathways for Congress to invalidate the results of an election and questioning the rushed-paced with which it was being moved through the legislative process.

Congressman Tom McClintock of California said the policy’s regulations regarding the electoral college are “clumsy and partisan.” He also said that while PERA limits “the grounds upon which the count can be interfered with by the Congress … it still allows Congress to invalidate electoral votes so it does not solve the problem.”

“Why rush such a significant piece of legislation when the next presidential certification won’t happen for over two years? It’s pretty simple … the midterm elections are just weeks away, and the Democrats are desperately trying to talk about their favorite topic, former President Trump,” said Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia introduced the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act in July. While the bill is similar to the PERA, it sets a lower threshold to introduce an objection to the electoral count, per ABC News

The measure currently has 10 Republican co-sponsors and is, therefore, likely to survive a filibuster attempt.

The Jan. 6 Subcommittee will hold its next public hearing on Sept. 28 where new, yet-unrevealed information and footage will be presented, according to Chairman Bennie Thompson, the representative from Mississippi.

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