51.5 F

U.S. Senate bills would ban fake electors, clear up Electoral College procedures


by Jennifer Shutt and Hugh Jackson, Nevada Current

In December 2020, Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald and five other party officials and activists gathered in Carson City and signed a phony election certificate that attempted to grant Nevada’s six electoral college votes to Donald Trump, even though Joe Biden beat Trump in Nevada.

Their action got two of them  – McDonald and state party vice chairman James DeGraffenreid – subpoenaed by the House committee investigating January 6. Last month the FBI issued a search warrant on McDonald and seized his cell phone, reportedly in connection with federal investigations of the January 6 insurrection.

Along with Nevada, fake electors in six other states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — signed phony election certificates declaring Trump had won their states, even though Trump lost them all. The fraudulent election certificates were then submitted to Congress, in what the January 6 committee has demonstrated was a key part of a plan devised by Trump legal adviser John Eastman to get then Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to accept the real election results from those states, in an attempt to overturn the results in some of them and thus declare Trump the winner of the election he had lost.

Now there’s a bill for that.

A bipartisan group of 16 U.S. senators released legislation Wednesday that aims to clarify the 1887 law that governs how Congress counts Electoral College votes following a presidential election.

The legislation caps off months of negotiations between Republican and Democratic senators, who hope to remove the vagueness from the Electoral Count Act that led Trump and some of his advisers to call on Pence to ignore certified votes for Joe Biden.

A second bill from the group, released alongside that electoral count bill, would enhance federal penalties for people convicted of threatening or intimidating election officials, poll watchers, voters, or candidates.

“From the beginning, our bipartisan group has shared a vision of drafting legislation to fix the flaws of the archaic and ambiguous Electoral Count Act of 1887,” the group of nine Republicans and seven Democratic senators said in a statement.

The senators said the legislation they unveiled Wednesday would establish “clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for President and Vice President.”

Electoral count act

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act would place each state’s governor in charge of submitting the certificate of ascertainment identifying that state’s electors, unless the state law or state constitution specified otherwise.

“Congress could not accept a slate submitted by a different official,” according to a summary of the bill. “This reform would address the potential for multiple state officials to send Congress competing slates.”

The proposal would clarify the role of the vice president during the counting of electoral college votes, noting that they do “not have any power to solely determine, accept, reject, or otherwise adjudicate disputes over electors.”

The number of U.S. lawmakers needed to raise an objection would increase to one-fifth of the members sworn in to the House, which holds 435 members, and the Senate, which holds 100.

“This change would reduce the likelihood of frivolous objections by ensuring that objections are broadly supported,” according to the bill summary. “Currently, only a single member of both chambers is needed to object to an elector or slate of electors.”

The measure would remove an 1845 law that could allow state legislatures to override the popular vote in their state by declaring a failed election, a term not defined in the law. The bill would instead allow states to move their presidential election date if needed following “extraordinary and catastrophic” events.

Election security

The second bill, dubbed the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act, would increase the federal penalty for people convicted of threatening or intimidating election officials, poll watchers, voters, or candidates from up to one year in prison to up to two years.

The measure would clarify that federal law requires election officials to preserve electronic election records. It would make it illegal to tamper with a voting system. And it would increase the penalty for people convicted of willfully stealing, destroying, concealing, mutilating, or altering election records from $1,000 to $10,000 and from up to one year in prison to up to two years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Tuesday that he’s been in close contact with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who along with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Machin have led the negotiations over the bills, and is “sympathetic with what she’s trying to achieve.”

“The Electoral Count Act does need to be fixed,” McConnell said.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This Is Reno is your source for award-winning independent, online Reno news and events since 2009. We are locally owned and operated.