The Good and Bad News of Democrats' Partisan Electoral Count Act Proposal

On Tuesday, Senators Angus King, Amy Klobuchar, and Dick Durbin announced their proposal for reforming the Electoral Count Act (ECA), the Electoral Count Modernization Act. Before we begin on the actual bill, we must give the Democrats credit for actually making a proposal on the ECA. After massive "voting rights" bills that had little to do with making elections better or voting rights and more to do with their re-elections and a federal takeover of elections, the Democrats are actually focused on the subject of the bill's title this time. We are hopeful that this is sign the Democrats' dreams of partisan election "reform" outside the ECA are dead.

The Hill reported:

The proposal — from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — would clarify that the vice president's role overseeing the formal counting of the Electoral College vote is ceremonial. .

The legislation isn't finalized, and the senators labeled it a "discussion draft." But they added that they thought the proposal "serves as a foundational outline for key reforms that address the shortcomings of the 1887 law."

The bad news is that if the ECA were to be reformed, this is not the way to do it. For example, a notable concern with the King/Klobuchar/Durbin proposal is its expansion of the federal courts' involvement in election disputes.

The ECA is an area where there could be bipartisan support for reform. While Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has not thrown his support behind any specific proposal for making changes to the ECA, he has indicated that he would be open to reforming the law.

The bipartisan group referred to by Leader McConnell is in the beginning stages of formulating a proposal for ECA reform. As Politico explained, Republican Senator Susan Collins is spearheading the effort:

Maine Sen. Susan Collins , the group’s leader on the GOP side, said the more narrow the focus of their talks, the more quickly the group can move. In addition to raising the objection threshold and clarifying the vice president’s role, she said the group is weighing reauthorization of the Election Assistance Commission and installing federal penalties for people who target elections officials and poll workers.

“There are some who want to revisit the voting reforms that were not passed. I’m not among those. I would like to do our best to come up with a bipartisan bill that could garner 60 or more votes,” Collins said. When it comes to reviving pieces of Democrats’ election reform package, she added, “there is not consensus, at all, on whether that should be part of any agreement that we’re able to reach.”

Any efforts to reform should be narrowly focused and limited to the Electoral Count Act. Otherwise, ECA reform will become yet another vehicle for the Democrats' radical proposals for a federal takeover of our elections.