Preventing another Jan. 6

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Trump and his supporters caused chaos throughout the certification of the 2020 election in Congress, pushing slates of “fake electors,” pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to toss out the votes from legitimate electors, and even after the counting of electoral votes was interrupted by insurrectionists, pro-Trump Republicans in both chambers voted to object to the results. When it was over, there was a sense that the holes in our election certification process needed to be plugged.

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Article Contents

The move

A bipartisan group in Congress worked to reform the Electoral Count Act, a byzantine 19th century law that governs how Electoral College votes are tallied. The changes include making clear that the vice president’s role is “solely ministerial,” requiring that electors in states are picked “in accordance with the laws of the State enacted prior to election day” and raising the threshold for how many members of Congress are needed to object to a state’s slate. The act also allows for the “apparent successful candidate” to more easily receive funding from the government to build a transition office, after Trump officials dragged their feet for weeks in providing the funds Biden needed for his transition work.

The impact

The law will make it harder for Trump, or any other presidential candidate, to pressure state and local election officials — or Congress — to overturn elections.

The upshot

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act did address significant weaknesses that Trump exploited in his last-gasp attempts to hold on to power. However, Biden had committed to passing broader voting rights legislation to forestall other types of election misdeeds and fell short. His administration went all-in on passing various iterations of a bill that would have dramatically remade American elections, but those efforts were rebuffed in the Senate by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) who refused to gut the filibuster to do so. Meanwhile, Republicans were furious after Biden accused them of presiding over “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”



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