WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, President Joe Biden signed S. 4573, a bipartisan bill to reform the antiquated Electoral Count Act (ECA), into law. The bill was included in the omnibus spending package to fund the federal government this year.
S.4573, the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, is designed to reform the process by which Congress counts Electoral College votes to avoid a repeat of the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The law
- Clarifies that the role of the vice president is purely ceremonial,
- Raises the threshold for members of Congress to initiate objections to electoral results to one-fifth of each chamber,
- Ensures there is one conclusive slate of electors from each state
- And outlines a process for expedited court review of election results.
In September, the Senate Rules Committee additionally amended the law to
- Make U.S. Supreme Court review of any federal litigation over the certification of state electors discretionary rather than mandatory,
- Ensure the judicial review procedure provided in the act doesn’t exclude litigation in other state and federal courts
- And clarify the language around certification of electors to specify that during the counting of electoral college votes, Congress must treat the electors certified by a state and modified by any state or federal court relief as conclusive.
Reforming the ECA is seen as a critical step to preventing another event like the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump and his supporters exploited the ECA to fuel his attempts to overturn the results. The ambiguity around the vice president’s role under the ECA fueled the pressure campaign on then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject valid electoral college votes and the ECA’s counting procedures inspired Trump supporters to pressure Republican members of Congress to object to the electoral votes of several states.