Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Sunday signaled optimism about their work to reform the Electoral Count Act, with Manchin going so far as to say it will “absolutely” pass, during a rare bipartisan interview on CNN.
“I think absolutely it’ll pass. Now, there will be some people saying it’s not enough. There will be some people saying it’s more than what we should do or we don’t need it. And what we’ll do is try to bring them all together and say, ‘Listen, this is what we should do because this is what caused the problem. And it’s what we can do. So let’s do that,’” Manchin told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
The pair of lawmakers are part of the bipartisan effort focused on making changes to a 19th century law known as the Electoral Count Act that was intended to give Congress a process by which to certify the Electoral College votes submitted by the states. It’s a mundane but crucial part of the presidential election machinery, one that former President Donald Trump and his allies attempted to exploit last year.
Election law experts and those urging reform have repeatedly warned that in light of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, the law needs to be updated and strengthened to ensure that a losing party can never subvert the results of the Electoral College.
Pointing to the vagueness of the law on Sunday, Manchin said that Republican lawmakers saw “an avenue” to overturn the election and that “when one congressman and one senator can bring a state’s authentic count to a halt, it’s wrong.”
Murkowski said that the bipartisan group negotiating reform is going to “take the Goldilocks approach” to find common ground among senators from both parties, while acknowledging the compromise may leave some unsatisfied.
“I kind of have said, we’re going to take the Goldilocks approach here. We’re gonna try to find what’s just right,” she said. “And it’s not going to be just right for everybody, but will it be a step ahead? Will it be important for the country? Yeah.”
Murkowski added that the working group is also looking at the Help America Vote Act and the Electoral Commissions Act to increase protections for election workers and safeguard the chain of custody for ballots once they are cast.
“We want to make sure that … if you’re going to be an election worker, if you’re going to be there at the polling booth, you don’t feel intimidated or threatened or harassed,” Murkowski said. “We are sitting down I think, again, as members in good faith to ensure that election integrity across all 50 states moves forward in a positive way.”
Adding urgency to the election reform push, Trump has continued to spread lies about the 2020 election in a preview of the kind of message he could make the centerpiece of a future campaign if he decides to run again.
Trump in a statement last month that he wanted then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 presidential election on January 6, 2021. He falsely claimed that the bipartisan group of lawmakers working to reform the Electoral Count Act proves his claim that Pence had the power, according to the ECA, to overturn the 2020 election.
Pence on Friday called out his former boss by name, saying that “President (Donald) Trump is wrong” in claiming he had the right to overturn the 2020 election – his strongest response yet to Trump’s ongoing efforts to relitigate the election.
Though the Electoral Count Act is vague, it is clear the role of the vice president is ceremonial and does not include the power to overturn the result of a presidential election.
CNN’s Clare Foran and Manu Raju contributed to this report.