Electoral Count Act

The Democrats' Voting Bill Is Dead, but Electoral Reform Isn't

The defeat of Democrats' voting rights legislation could lead to meaningful progress on election integrity.


A defeat for Democratic voting rights legislation could lead to meaningful progress on electoral integrity.

On Wednesday, a Senate effort to amend filibuster rules in a way that would allow Democrats to pass voting rights legislation with fewer than 60 votes was defeated, despite President Joe Biden voicing support for that course of action earlier this month. And without the rule change, the voting bill itself is doomed as well, as Republicans stand fully in opposition.

In a speech in Atlanta, Biden seemed to imply that anybody who did not support his party's bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, was "on the side of" historical segregationists like George Wallace and Bull Connor. He issued a direct warning to lawmakers: "History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters' rights. And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion. So, I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered?"

Under that argument, a failure to pass the bill would seem to be devastating to the cause of voting rights. But in the wake of the bill's defeat, there is a new and potentially more promising development.

Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are considering modifications to the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law that details when and how Congress counts and certifies the votes cast by presidential electors. The act dictates that the president of the Senate (the U.S. vice president) reads out the votes from each state, which Congress then counts before certifying the winner. While the vice president's role seems largely ceremonial, with no ability to alter an election's outcome, the act does not say so explicitly. Former President Donald Trump and his acolytes seized upon this vagueness when they tried to pressure then–Vice President Mike Pence to either decline to certify the results, or else simply pick a different slate of electors in enough swing states to tip the election to Trump.

Now, lawmakers from both parties are considering reforms to the Electoral Count Act in both the Senate and the House. CNN reports that six Republican senators are planning talks on the law "with the aim of clarifying the process for counting electoral votes." Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.), a moderate whose opposition helped sink the filibuster reform, told CNN that reforms to the Electoral Count Act could help reduce the type of confusion that ultimately led, in part, to the false hopes that prompted hundreds of Trump supporters to violently storm the Capitol on the day of the election certification vote.

Meanwhile, the Committee on House Administration released a report detailing potential alterations to the act. The report includes suggestions such as a higher threshold for senators or representatives to register objections to vote counts, and giving states more time to adjudicate disputes before certifying their electoral votes. The Cato Institute's Andy Craig has previously made many of the suggestions that lawmakers featured in their report and has written extensively on Electoral Count Act reform, which he says is "urgently needed to avoid future constitutional crises."

Despite Democrats' urgent messaging about the need for voting rights legislation, their proposed bills are unlikely to achieve meaningful reform. They do not attempt to solve the issues that led rioters to try to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election. The most direct way to confront those issues is to address the actual law that was used to attempt to undermine the transfer of power. Hopefully, Republicans and Democrats can at least agree on that much.

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38 responses to “The Democrats' Voting Bill Is Dead, but Electoral Reform Isn't

  1. >>Despite Democrats' urgent messaging ... their proposed bills are unlikely to achieve meaningful reform.

    covers all topics. (R) too.

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  2. Biden never had a problem with segregationists before.

    1. With the way that "black and brown" loyalty to the Dem party is fading so quickly, the confluence of partisan and racial politics might soon be as much of a relic as Biden himself.

  3. "The defeat of Democrats' voting rights legislation"

    If Democrats don't get everything they want, we're literally living through JIM CROW 2.0.

    I still expect an enormous #BlueWave2022 in November based on Biden's fantastic performance (economy, foreign policy, liberating concentration camps, shutting down the virus) so far. But if that doesn't happen it will mean the election was illegitimate. Like 2016.


    1. Seems to me that VP Harris could, with the right modifications to the Electoral Count Act, declare Hillary Clinton the winner of the 2016 election. I mean she is our last best hope for saving our democracy.

  4. Attempts to modify the Electoral Count Act will, of course, end up with tons of amendments designed to bring it in line with the previous legislation that couldn’t pass.

  5. Don’t rule changes for the senate only require a simple majority of senators?

    1. Yes - and they couldn't achieve even that. Despite the media hype about rabid partisanship, there remain a couple of sane Senators (on both sides of the aisle) who understand that the filibuster rule is a valuable balancing control to ensure that temporary majorities don't ride roughshod over the minority. More importantly, they also understand that their party will not remain in power forever and killing the filibuster will inevitably come back to haunt them.

      1. Serious change requires super majority, otherwise minorities have no rights.

        1. That’s the way it should be, but sadly it isn’t.

  6. It's fascinating to me that we just went through "the most secure election in American history" and yet... here we barely 12 months later in desperate need of "reform" to improve "election integrity".

    It almost makes one think that we've been told things that weren't 100% true.

  7. Maybe the Capitol riot is a largely ginned up "crisis" to make looser, less secure election rules adopted in the name of the pandemic permanent so the Democrats can add fraudulent votes to the counts, and it does not have anything to do with "voting rights" ar all?

    And again, it is fascinating how the Biden Administration thinks it is a terrible imposition to require an ID to vote, but proof of vaccination is necessary to not be in internal exile.

    1. An ID to vote and an entry matching that ID in the voter registration list. That hasn't kept me from voting in Tennessee.
      What the Democrats want is what happened in Meigs County TN when the Memphis Crump machine moved into East Tennessee, the Crump machine preloading the ballot boxes with loyal dead Democrat voters, a Crump poll watcher shooting Tom Gillespie when he tried to vote for the bipartisan slate.

      Every time I buy, sell or trade a gun, I have to produce photo ID and pass a federal background check, but being registered to vote and present a photo ID that you are you are the registered voter you say you are is too much? The Dredd Scott decision equated the right to bear arms and to vote as the rights of a full citizen.

  8. I am in favor of the Chocolate Cake and Ice Cream For All Bill wherein every tenth Senator or Congressman is dragged outside and beaten to death by 100 citizens bearing bowling pins but apparently some people don't like chocolate cake and ice cream.

  9. Good. This is a positive development in the cause of voting reform.

  10. What counts for "voter suppression" nowadays?

    1. Being a citizen?

    2.. Having to actually register to vote?

    3. Getting off your ass and going to the polls, or filing an absentee ballot within a statutory time prior to the election?

    4. Showing an ID?

    Personally I am thinking Democrats just figure the easier it is to vote, the more votes they will get.

    1. 5. Not allowing voting by psychic hotline. (Neatly deals with both inconvenience AND the dead.)

    2. Getting off your ass is White.

      1. ...supremacy. And I am reminded of an article last year about the San Francisco school board that also included a sense of urgency and objectivity.

        Let them run with it, all the way to the dumpster.

      1. I had to wait several days to pick up the last gun I purchased.

      2. No.
        It's terrible logistics and the bureaucrat in charge should be fired, but it's not even close to being voter suppression.

        You're so bad at this, Jeffy. I hope that your boss gets his fifty-cents back.

      3. What do Republicans have to do with Democrats preventing people from voting?

    3. 2.. Having to actually register to vote?

      In other countries, citizens are automatically registered to vote when they reach the legal voting age. Why not do the same here?

      1. ...outside of the incessant bitching when the disqualified are removed from the voter rolls?

      2. In other countries, citizens have mandatory government issued ID that is then used for voting and is only issued to citizens. The latest versions aren’t just pieces of paper, they contain digital identification and security. That’s why they can do that.

        The US has something similar with motor voter, except it’s much less secure and people aren’t required to show that id for voting.

        Voter id laws are trying to fix that.

        Does that answer your question?

    4. We're supposed to accept that having a valid government-issued ID is a hardship for many (especially "minority") voters in an era where such an ID is required to conduct all sorts of personal business. In CA now, one even has to have upgraded to a "RealID" compliant version (which State incompetence combined with pandemic over-reaction actually did turn into something that took some effort) to exercise 2A rights in the form of purchasing firearms, or only facing minimal interference when buying ammo; also with "vax passport" requirements, entry into compliant entertainment venues (some aren't bothering to enforce those "rules"), restaurants & bars, and who know what other kinds of businesses.

      Oddly, there's no talk among the woke elite in the state about how needing an ID for the proof of vax is racist (since only white people can apparently navigate the DMV system?).

  11. voting rights...voting rights...voting rights...voting rights...voting rights...

    Specifically, what "rights" are you talking about? If you can't name them, then please stop participating in the propaganda by using that phrase. Talk about "voting procedures" or something.

  12. It's cute that you think amending a law that has nothing to do with the underlying issues that led to J6 would somehow appease those of us who took issue with practices during the 2020 election.

    Tone deaf. Problem isn't going away until you wise up about it. We need real election security ASAP and it starts with an accurate census that excludes illegal immigrants. State governments have a perverse incentive to import and shield as many illegals as possible to increase their population count and steal representation in the HoR and electoral votes to manipulate elections. Citizens haven't had a fair say in elections for decades. Let's start there and then move to the smaller ticket items.

  13. He issued a direct warning to lawmakers: "History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters' rights. And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion.

    Yes, and every single damned one of these people has been or IS a democrat. Every one.

    Libertarians and republicans and people on the right have fought democrat election tampering--including voter suppression, active denial of minority voting, voter intimidation and election subversion since their inception.

    Why does Reason pretend otherwise?

    1. I'm a bit fucking tired of having my voting rights nullified by massive fraud that requires less and less effort.

  14. It has to be repeated over and over:
    Jefferson Davis was a democrat.
    George Wallace (Joe Biden's friend) was a democrat.
    Bull Connor was a democrat.

    What Basement Bunker Biden was saying in GA is the democrats are racist.

  15. "The Democrats' Voting Bill Is Dead"

    Just like a fair percentage of their voters.

  16. Electoral reform should involve creating VERIFIABLE ELECTIONS! Where each voter has the power to verify their vote was counted! It seems to me there is an extremely simple solution for this...

  17. There are obviously plenty of pro-GOP posters here who think that by being on this site they're somehow libertarians, kinda...

    There are distinct issues:
    1. Registration
    2. Voting access
    3. Voting legality
    4. Vote counting

    The GOP have made it clear that they are interested in #3 - all those illegal voters or multiple voters, that curiously no-one can actually find in sufficient numbers to affect any election - and #4 - despite the fact, and it is a fact, that the count had very few problems, as the large number of court cases showed. (This being "Reason" I would expect that no-one is so stupid or ignorant as to claim that the courts never considered the merits in any of the cases.)

    The registration process could do with improvement - ideally registration should be accurate and easy, and removing eligible voters from the rolls should be rare - and conceivably grounds for civil or criminal sanction.

    As far as access to voting, it seems that some of the posters here think that there should be hurdles that voters should go through to show their commitment. This is, of course, a transparent rationalisation of one kind of voter suppression.

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