House OKs reforms to the Electoral Count Act The bill would amend the Electoral Count Act, which legal experts have called vague and confusing. The legislation is similar to a somewhat narrower bill from a bipartisan group of senators.

The House just passed a bill that would make it harder to overthrow an election

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The Electoral Count Act is the law that governs the certification process for presidential elections. It's been criticized as being arcane and vague. Former President Trump and his allies tried to exploit it to overturn the election, which led to the insurrection. Now, there's work being done to ensure that can't happen again. Nine House Republicans joined all the chamber's Democrats in passing a bill that would update the law. Here's NPR's Miles Parks.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Legal experts haven't been shy over the past few years in criticizing the Electoral Count Act. Here's Rebecca Green, who co-directs William & Mary's election law program, in an interview with NPR this summer.

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REBECCA GREEN: A lot of us are planning family trips this summer. And imagine that there was a law on the books requiring you to travel by horse and buggy. That is literally what the Electoral Count Act is like.

PARKS: For years, the archaic law was seen by experts as more of a nuisance than a threat - until January 6, 2021, when former President Trump and his team pressured Vice President Mike Pence to meddle with the counting of Electoral College votes. Legal experts agreed at that time that Pence didn't have the authority to stop the count. But the vagueness of the law still allowed for Trump to push for it. The bill passed in the House on Wednesday would change that, and it was led by two members of the House committee investigating the attack at the Capitol - Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California and Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Here's Cheney.

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LIZ CHENEY: Our bill reaffirms what the Constitution and existing law make plain - the vice president has no authority or discretion to reject official state electoral slates.

PARKS: The bill would also raise the threshold for individual members of Congress to object to state results. Currently, it takes just one representative and one senator to object to a state's results and effectively delay the certification process by sending those results to debate and a vote. The new bill, as Lofgren noted, would raise that bar to one-third of each congressional chamber.

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ZOE LOFGREN: The bottom line is this - if you want to object to the vote, you better have your colleagues and the Constitution on your side. Don't try to overturn our democracy.

PARKS: During debate, Republicans in the House raised issues with how quickly the bill was brought to a vote, but seemed open to the general idea of Electoral Count Act reform. The House bill is similar - but not identical - to legislation drafted this year by a bipartisan working group in the Senate as well, but it's unclear when the Senate plans to vote on that legislation. Green, of William & Mary, says it's imperative that it happens sooner than later - before the 2024 election cycle heats up in earnest.

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GREEN: You don't know, at this point, which rules are going to benefit which party. And so this is the perfect time to come together and at least establish what those rules are and then sort of set this all in stone before, you know, we run into another election.

PARKS: Miles Parks, NPR News, Washington.

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