WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-5) joined House Democrats in voting for The Presidential Election Reform Act (PERA), legislation to reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act that outlines how electoral votes are cast and counted following presidential elections. The Presidential Election Reform Act is urgently needed to affirm and clarify the intent of the Electoral Count Act following the January 6th, 2021 insurrection when former President Trump and MAGA Republicans attempted to subvert the American electorate by pressuring Vice President Pence not to certify the 2020 presidential election results.
“January 6th was one of the darkest days in our history. We now know in — great detail — how the former president and his cronies were attempting to use the electoral certification process to undermine our democracy,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “They tried to delegitimize a free and fair election with their lies, subvert the results certified and sent by the states, and pressure a Vice President into rejecting his Constitutional responsibilities – all of which erupted in violence, hate, and bloodshed in our Capitol.
“Today, we voted for the Presidential Election Reform Act to ensure that the rule of law and the will of the people will always prevail.”
In January, the Committee on House Administration released a Committee Staff Report on the Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA), which examined the ECA and argued it badly needed reform.
Specifically, the Presidential Election Reform Act would:
- Enact New Counting Rules: PERA enacts clear, comprehensive counting rules that make the following important reforms:
- Reaffirm that the vice president’s role at the count is ministerial;
- Raise the objection threshold to one-third of each house (up from a single Member of each house);
- List the explicit Constitutional grounds upon which Members may object to a state’s electoral votes.
- Ensure that Congress Receives a Single, Accurate Certificate from Each State: PERA sets a deadline by which governors must transmit their states’ electoral appointments to Congress. If a governor fails to do so, or if he or she transmits inaccurate certificates of appointment, PERA authorizes candidates to obtain a federal court order requiring the governor to transmit the states’ lawful certificate. If the governor refuses, then the court shall order another appropriate state official to issue the lawful certificate. The governor’s certificate (or the certificate of the other state official, as the case may be) shall be conclusive for Congress’ purposes at the electoral count.
- Require States to Select Electors Pursuant to State Laws as They Exist Prior to Election Day: PERA requires states to conduct presidential elections under state laws as they exist prior to Election Day, which will clarify that there is no legal authority allowing state legislatures to “take back” their electoral appointment power after the election if they do not like the results.
- Ensure that Presidential Elections are Only Extended for Genuine Catastrophic Events: PERA amends the Electoral Count Act’s “failed elections” provision to ensure that a state’s presidential election can only be extended if a federal judge agrees that the state has experienced a genuine catastrophic event affecting enough ballots to swing the outcome of the state’s election.
- Prohibit Election Officials from Refusing to Certify Presidential Elections: The Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution prohibit election officials from willfully refusing to count ballots or certify elections in accordance with state election laws that exist on Election Day. PERA allows presidential candidates to seek federal injunctive relief against election officials to enforce these constitutional requirements in presidential elections if necessary.