VICTORY: Congress Updates the Electoral Count Act to Protect the Will of the People

Washington, D.C. – Today, as part of an omnibus appropriations and policy package, Congress passed legislation to update the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887, an archaic law that provides the primary legal framework for casting and counting Electoral College votes in presidential elections.

“Our democracy is safer today than it was yesterday,” said Adav Noti, senior vice president and legal director of Campaign Legal Center. “By updating the Electoral Count Act, this legislation makes clear that presidential election disputes will be settled under the rule of law, not by Congress or state legislatures. We commend the members of Congress from across the political spectrum who put country over politics and moved this bill forward under challenging circumstances.”

“This strong, bipartisan legislation will go a long way in helping to safeguard the outcome of future presidential elections from bad actors seeking to distort or undermine the electoral process,” said Trevor Potter, founder and president of Campaign Legal Center. “Today we can celebrate victory, even as we acknowledge there is much more work to be done to protect elections and voters at the state and federal level.” 

The Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA) was introduced on July 20, 2022, by a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). Thirty-nine senators cosponsored the ECRA: 22 Democrats, 16 Republicans and one Independent.

A separate proposal to update the ECA – the Presidential Election Reform Act (PERA) – was introduced in the House by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Liz Cheney (R-WY). The House passed that measure in September, which largely aligned with the ECRA and promoted the same key updates.

The original ECA contained confusing language and vulnerabilities that former President Donald Trump and his supporters tried to exploit as they attempted to overturn the 2020 election results. In 2021, CLC convened constitutional experts from across the country representing all political viewpoints to determine important updates to modernize the ECA. The new law Congress passed today includes several recommended changes:

  • It prohibits state legislatures from changing the law after Election Day to overrule their voters and the results of the popular election.
  • It provides procedures to resolve disputes about electors and election certifications before those disputes reach Congress.
  • It strictly limits opportunities for members of Congress to second-guess states’ certified election results.
  • And it clarifies the vice president’s ministerial role in the counting of electoral votes, reinforcing that the vice president does not decide election results.