There are several key pieces of legislation before Congress right now and an ever-shrinking window of opportunity to pass any of them. Incumbents up for re-election in the Senate will be embarking on the campaign trail come to Memorial Day and everyone’s attention will shift to election mode. There is one piece of legislation that demands the type of urgency that Congress isn’t always known for – reforming the Electoral Count Act (ECA). I urge Republican Senators to seize the opportunity to protect our democracy by putting it at the top of their agenda.
Sen. Thom Tillis is part of the bipartisan working group focused on updating the antiquated and ambiguous legislation from 1887. As currently written, the ECA fails to give clear guidance on counting and certifying electoral votes. In 2020, Vice President Mike Pence understood his role as largely ceremonial in nature as part of the electoral certification process. But in January 2025 Vice President Kamala Harris will be holding the gavel after the presidential election and she could decide to interpret the ambiguous law differently. It’s plausible she could take advantage of the lack of clarity and attempt to determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
Democrats have challenged elections before, so we know it is not outside the realm of possibility. In 2005, then-Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) claimed that George W. Bush’s reelection had been stolen and challenged Ohio’s slate. We can stop this possibility from ever becoming a reality.
It is essential to make clear that the Vice President is in a largely ceremonial position and is not tasked with determining the legitimacy of any election. ECA reform should clearly define the role of the Vice President in addition to significantly raising the threshold required to object to counting a state’s electoral votes. Updates to ECA should clarify that states determine the winners of their own elections, not Congress. Congress and the Vice President should respect the will of the voters in individual states.
Election and constitutional lawyers from both sides of the aisle agree that the “ECA is widely seen to be impenetrably complex and poorly conceived, especially in its definition of the congressional role in the final tally of electoral votes for President and Vice President.”
A recent poll found that 62% of voters, both registered Republicans, and Democrats, support reforming the Electoral Count Act. Legal experts have laid out the parameters for a solution. Now Congress needs to act. Congress is a slow-moving institution, but this issue deserves expediency and attention from our leaders as the window of opportunity continues to shrink. Before a divided Congress takes over, Republican Senators need to ensure the statute is crystal clear to make it harder for Democrats to contest and overturn a future Republican victory.
We need Sen. Tillis and his fellow Republicans to recognize the momentum and expeditiously examine proposals compiled by bipartisan groups of lawyers and focus on presenting a legislative resolution ahead of the summer recess to quickly expedite its passage. Necessary reforms need to be passed this year.
Wake Forest, N.C.