Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials


Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Thursday that they are pushing forward with their effort to reform an 1887 election law after a more sweeping Democratic effort fell short this week.

Manchin and Collins - meeting together with a crowd of reporters in the Senate basement - said that a bipartisan group of senators is discussing overhauling the Electoral Count Act, as well additional protections for election workers including beefing up penalties for threatening poll workers.

"I'm very encouraged by the fact that so many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle have indicated an interest in making sure that votes are properly counted and certified and that means overhauling the 1887 Electoral Count Act, it means looking at additional protections against violence and threats for poll workers and election officials," Collins told reporters.

Manchin added that the senators "just think it's such a needed thing to secure our elections" and wanted to ensure that election and poll worker intimidation would be "dealt with in the harshest penalties, we're not going to fool with our count."

The decision by Manchin and Collins to drive their efforts back into the spotlight comes after Collins convened a bipartisan group of senators earlier this month to talk about potential election reforms.

But those talks have largely flown under the radar as Democrats made a failed bid to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster in order to pass a sweeping election and voting rights bill.

That effort unraveled late Wednesday night when Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voted with Republicans to prevent a one-time rules change that would have nixed the 60-vote hurdle for the elections bill. Instead, under the rules change, opponents could have slowed down the bill by holding the floor, but after that it could have passed by a simple majority.

There's growing bipartisan support for altering the Electoral Count Act after then-President Trump tried to get some of his closest allies, including Vice President Mike Pence, to try to challenge the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, 2021. A pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol that day as lawmakers and Pence were formally counting the results.

Among the changes under discussion are clarifying the vice president's role and changing the number of lawmakers who need to object before the House and Senate must vote on a challenge to a state's Electoral College slate.

In addition to the bipartisan group, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Angus King (I-Maine) are working on separate legislation that would make changes to the Electoral Count Act.