Question: What makes the Presidential Election Reform Act different from earlier legislative proposals to change the system?
Answers: It has (some) bipartisan support.
On Wednesday afternoon, the House passed a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Liz Cheney and Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, two members of the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. The bill would update the Electoral Count Act to make clear the vice president’s role in counting electoral voters is purely ceremonial, raises the bar for lawmakers to object to a state’s electoral votes and creates other requirements for states to ensure the will of the voters is followed.
The final vote count was 229-203, with all Democrats and nine Republicans voting in favor. While that split doesn’t show an overwhelming sense of bipartisan support, it’s still a step up from the For the People Act, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, all of which passed the House with zero GOP votes before dying in the Senate.
Speaking of the other chamber, a bipartisan group of senators led by Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin drafted their own bill to amend the Electoral Count Act. They have the support of 10 Republicans – enough to overcome any attempts to block the bill via filibuster. (That’s how those other three Democratic bills were killed in the Senate.)
Unlike those other bills, which would have created new federal standards for voting, voter registration, gerrymandering and other elements of the voting process, these bills would update the rules for what happens after the voting and ballot-counting is done.
Former GOP Rep. Zach Wamp, who co-chairs Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus, celebrated the House vote:
“The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy that must rise above partisan politics. Today’s vote in the House brings us one step closer to reaffirming that in the United States, elections are decided only by the voters. It’s encouraging to see several strong, bipartisan, and bicameral proposals before Congress to strengthen the Electoral Count Act. It’s now time for our leaders in both chambers to work together and seize this opportunity to bolster our republic and protect the values we hold dear.”
Up next: The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will hold a hearing next week on the Collins-Manchin bill in advance of floor vote. If it passes as it stands, the two chambers will need to negotiate any differences.
The Census Bureau engaged in one of the odder population counts in 2020. With President Donald Trump trying to change the questionnaire in a manner that could have discouraged participation by some people of color and Covid-19 driving people into seclusion, census-takers faced unprecedented challenges. And it showed in the results, with a post-census audit demonstrating an undercount of about 5 percent of the population – particularly among non-white communities.
Given the importance of the census – it determines how states are represented in Congress and the allocation of federal spending – it may be time for some updates to the laws governing the process. That’s why the Brennan Center for Justice released 19 recommendations for improving the census, urging the government to take action now so the process works better, and delivers more accurate results, in 2030.
The 19 proposals fit into seven broader categories:
- Limiting executive interference.
- Enhancing congressional oversight of the Census Bureau.
- Improving data collection.
- Supporting state-level efforts to end prison gerrymandering.
- Improving data confidentiality.
- Ensuring adequate funding for the census.
- Eliminating outdated sections of the Census Act.
With much of America resorting to remote work, virtual education and Zoom happy hours during the Covid-19 pandemic, we learned just how essential high-speed internet is to our everyday lives. Yet, millions of Americans do not have reliable access to broadband and millions more can't afford to pay for the service that's available to them.
The Democracy Works podcast explored those challenges with Penn State’s Christopher Ali, author of “Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity.” They discussed a range of topics, including how communities across the country are democratizing internet access, the federal government following passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package last year, and the relationship between broadband deserts and news deserts.
Also in the news
Inside the civil rights campaign to get Big Tech to fight the ‘big lie’ (The Washington Post)
Election Updates: Watchdog Group Files F.E.C. Complaint Against Republicans (The New York Times)
National Debate: School Choice - Braver Angels - Sept. 22
Who are you in Restorative Justice? - Mediators Beyond Borders International - Sept. 23
Social media: a blessing or a curse? - Soliya - Sept. 25
Informed Voting: Where Do You Go To Learn More? - Crossing Party Lines - Sept. 25
What is justice? How do we deal with the unjust? - Citizen Assembly - Sept. 25