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Poll: Most People Want Certification Process Updated to Prevent Another Jan. 6

The likelihood of changes to the current law took a leap forward this week after Mitch McConnell said he backs the idea.

Electoral college votes are brought in prior to the resumption of a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

A majority of voters in the U.S. support a much-needed update to the law that defines how Congress certifies presidential elections, new polling shows.

Americans back such changes by a two-to-one margin, according to a Politico/Morning Consult survey conducted from September 23-25. Asking if they’d support or oppose the passage of a bill in Congress to make it harder for that legislative body “to override presidential election results in the future,” 52 percent of respondents said they’d back such an action, with only 26 percent saying they’d oppose it.

Interestingly, those who voted for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election were evenly split on the question. Trump and his allies in Congress sought to exploit ambiguities in current law in order to disrupt the certification process that took place on January 6, 2021. But according to the poll, 38 percent of those who say they voted for him also believe the law needs to be updated, to make sure actions like his don’t ever happen again (37 percent opposed the idea).

The polling results come as lawmakers in Congress are trying to determine which path, if any, they will take on updating the Electoral Count Act, an 18th century law that directs how Electoral College votes are certified in Congress. Last week, the House passed a proposal that would make changes to that law, which was sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), two prominent members of the January 6 committee.

Their bill, the Presidential Election Reform Act, proposes a number of changes to current law, including:

  • Strictly defining as ceremonial the vice president’s role in counting Electoral College votes from each state;
  • Requiring a threshold of one-third of lawmakers from each house of Congress to raise a formal challenge to electors’ votes — up from just one lawmaker in the House and one in the Senate;
  • An explicit statement that schemes to produce fake electors, to confuse or replace legitimate votes, are illegal.

After its passage, it was unclear whether the bill stood a chance of being passed in the Senate, due to filibuster rules in that chamber that would require at least 10 GOP votes. But comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) earlier this week suggest that, at the very least, a version of the bill will be passed.

“The chaos that came to a head on January 6th of last year certainly underscored the need for an update,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “The Electoral Count Act ultimately produced the right conclusion … but it’s clear the country needs a more predictable path.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate is pushing their own version of an update to the Electoral Count Act. The most notable difference in their bill is that the threshold for challenging electors’ votes is smaller than the House bill — it would require one-fifth, not one-third, of members from both houses of Congress to begin the formal challenge process, a level that was met in the House during the January 6, 2021, certification due to Trump-aligned Republicans opposing President Joe Biden’s win.

Among respondents in favor of changing the process, more want the threshold to be the higher of the two. Twenty-two percent of voters overall, according to the Politico/Morning Consult poll, say the threshold should be one-third of lawmakers in each house, while 17 percent say it should be the one-fifth level. Thirty-six percent of voters didn’t know or had no opinion, while 25 percent of respondents — likely those who oppose the idea of updating the law altogether — say the threshold should remain as it is, with only one lawmaker from each house needed to raise a challenge.

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