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Democrats Will Push Electoral College Reform in Final Weeks of House Control

Polling shows that most Americans support the proposed changes, but more want to end the Electoral College altogether.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) speak during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on April 28, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

In the final weeks of Congress’s last session before Republicans take control of the House, Democratic lawmakers are planning to push a number of bills forward — including legislation that aims to prevent attempted usurpations of future presidential elections in wake of Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election after he lost to President Joe Biden.

According to Politico, Democrats seem eager to pass an update to the Electoral Count Act, which would modify ambiguities in current election law that Trump attempted to exploit to overturn the 2020 presidential election outcome. In order to pass such legislation, however, Democrats may have to attach it to other spending bills.

On January 6, 2021, prior to the attack on the U.S. Capitol building by a mob of his loyalists, Trump sought to have then-Vice President Mike Pence rule that electors from states Biden had narrowly won were improperly selected, despite the fact that the vice president doesn’t have the power to issue such a ruling.

The new bill would solidify that such powers aren’t granted to the vice president. It would also create a higher threshold for members of Congress to contest electors’ votes. (Currently, only one member of each house is needed to initiate a challenge.)

But with little time to negotiate the bill, Democrats (as well as a handful of Republicans who support such reforms) will have to look at other options to pass the legislation into law — including possibly attaching the reforms to other appropriations bills, such as the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

It’s unlikely that a standalone bill on updates to the Electoral College, which has already passed in the House, could pass on its own in the Senate, as it’s unclear whether Democrats could find the 10 Republican votes necessary to avoid a filibuster block of the legislation. Attaching the legislation to another bill poses certain political risks, but appears to be the best option to ensure the reforms can be passed.

Polling from September shows that a majority of American voters want Congress to pass a bill to subvert future attempts at overturning presidential election results, with voters supporting such legislation by a two to one margin (52 percent versus 26 percent).

But other polling data shows that an even higher proportion of voters support eliminating the Electoral College altogether and replacing it with a popular vote model.

A report from Pew Research Center in August found that 63 percent of Americans favor replacing the Electoral College with a version of a popular vote mechanism, while just 35 percent of Americans want to keep the Electoral College in place.

The rate of support for ending the Electoral College is the highest seen in decades, according to Pew’s numbers.

Notably, Trump won the presidency in 2016 through the Electoral College, despite losing the popular vote to then-Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. For about a week after his victory, Trump, who had previously expressed misgivings about the Electoral College, said he was still supportive of getting rid of the system. He changed his tune shortly after, however, and repeatedly endorsed the Electoral College throughout his presidency, likely because it was (and remains) his best shot at winning another presidential election sometime in the future, as the majority of Americans view him unfavorably.

Indeed, Biden won the 2020 Electoral College by a margin of 306 electors to Trump’s 232, and by around 7 million ballots in the popular vote count; if Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada had opted for Trump rather than Biden by just 77,405 ballots, Trump would have won the presidency for the second time, despite Biden having 7 million more votes.