There are election reforms that both Democrats and Republicans seem to like After failing to pass a voting rights bill, Democrats in Congress haven't made their next move clear. Bipartisan talks have begun over smaller measures that election experts still see as necessary.

There are election reforms that both Democrats and Republicans seem to like

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TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

Republicans blocked an expansive voting rights push by Democrats last month, but now there's an active bipartisan effort to pass some election reforms. And senators from both parties met last night to chart a path forward. They want to pass something that would help avoid another situation like the January 6 insurrection.

Miles Parks covers voting for NPR, and he joins us now to talk about how they might do that. Hey, Miles.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hi, Tam.

KEITH: So walk me through what's on the table here.

PARKS: So negotiations this time around are focused less on protecting access to the ballot and more around the vote counting and certification process, and that's because Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said that's the only thing they're willing to engage on. The largest priority right now is reforming what's known as the Electoral Count Act. This is the 130-year-old law that lays out the procedures for certifying Electoral College votes.

Legal experts for years, decades, have long said it's - this law is poorly written. It's really vague and confusing. And last year, we saw that vagueness lead to the attack on the Capitol on January 6 because former President Trump and his supporters thought Mike Pence - Vice President Mike Pence had more power to actually affect the election results than they really did. Trump has put out multiple statements this week, indicating he still believes that.

KEITH: Oh, he has. We know that not a whole lot of major legislation gets through the Senate easily these days. How real are these negotiations?

PARKS: This is certainly the most real, most bipartisan effort on an elections bill this Congress. There's a group of more than a dozen senators working on this right now, including at least nine Republicans. The plan is that they're going to draft and update the law. It'll probably clarify that role that the vice president is supposed to play in this process and potentially also raise the bar for making an objection to a state's election results. But there's also some early indications that this legislation could include some other things aimed at sort of strengthening the guardrails around our democratic processes - things like increased protections for local election officials and potentially supplying some more funding for voting.

But Republican Senator Susan Collins was really quick to tell reporters yesterday, this bill is still going to be really targeted. It's not going to be anything like the bill that Democrats tried to pass a month ago, which was a pretty expansive election overhaul.

KEITH: So the focus with this is really on stopping someone from subverting the results of an election. And, Miles, there are new reports every day about how deeply former President Trump was involved in those efforts in 2020, including proposals to seize voting machines and submit false Electoral College votes. What is he saying about these potential election reforms?

PARKS: Right. So as we mentioned, after voting stopped in 2020, the former president contended that Mike Pence, as vice president, had the power on January 6 to overturn the election in his favor. Legal experts have always said that wasn't true. That argument would not hold up in court. But Trump is still trying to spin the current movement in Congress to say, basically, they're changing the rules because I was right.

Regardless, voting experts are really optimistic about the bipartisan energy around these efforts right now. I talked to Rick Hasen, who's an election law expert at UC Irvine, and he told me that while he wanted to see some of the ballot access reforms that Democrats were trying to pass earlier this year, after those failed, he's happy that there's movement on certification reform now.

KEITH: NPR's Miles Parks. Thank you so much, Miles.

PARKS: Thanks, Tam.

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