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ElectionsFor very different reasons, leaders of both parties have been questioning whether we can trust the results from our elections. A lack of faith in our election outcomes on both the left and right poses a serious threat to American self-government. The ability to trust that our representatives have been determined by the voice of the people is the bedrock of the most successful republic in history.

There are significant federal legislative proposals from both the left and right that are unrealistic this year because the other side vigorously opposes them. The bipartisan group of roughly 20 senators led by Senators Manchin (Democrat – West Virginia) and Collins (Republican – Maine), however, is making impressive progress. This is mostly the same group with whom we worked on infrastructure legislation. The level of bipartisan support that is needed is far from assured. Still, this impressive bipartisan group of senators is having success identifying commonsense measures wise enough to attract support from both Republicans and Democrats. Their progress, combined with positive signals from both Senate Majority Leader Schumer (Democrat – New York) and Minority Leader McConnell (Republican – Kentucky), give legislation that could make our election results significantly more trustworthy a unique chance of passing in 2022. Some of the most influential senators have specifically encouraged us to pick this issue because they believe we could play a significant role by demonstrating whether, and where, broad consensus exists among the American people.

The legislative provisions with perhaps the best prospects are updates to the Electoral Count Act. Passed by Congress in 1878, it establishes the requirements for how and when states certify and send the results of the presidential election to Congress. It also establishes the procedures by which Congress counts the electoral votes sent by the states and resolves disputes over a state’s slate of electors. In the eyes of both Republicans and Democrats, January 6, 2020, revealed shortcomings of the Electoral Count Act (ECA). For example, there is considerable bipartisan agreement that the ECA should make clear that the role of the Vice President is simply to open and count the electors certified and sent to the Congress by the states. All congressional Democrats and many Republicans disagree with the suggestion by President Trump and others on the right that the ECA gave Vice President Pence the authority to reject a slate of electors certified by a state. Recognizing that such power would now give Vice President Harris the authority to reject electors when she presides after the 2024 election, most Republicans agree with Democrats that such a fundamental violation of the principle that the American people choose the president should be addressed.

Another example of federal legislation that may attract bipartisan support is increased funding for state and local governments to administer elections. Many on both the left and the right observe that election equipment is aging and not as reliable as it should be. In particular, there is broad agreement that states and local governments should have the resources needed to purchase modern polling equipment with a paper trail. There is also wide agreement that we don’t invest enough in recruiting, training, and supporting election workers.