Schumer and McConnell are giving bipartisan Electoral Count Act reform gang a chance

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Bipartisan Senate centrists
Bipartisan Senate centrists Alex Wong/Getty Images

Right after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined all 50 Republicans to block a filibuster change that would have allowed Democrats expand voting access and curb gerrymandering nationwide, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was notably tepid on a brewing bipartisan proposal to reform the Electoral Count Act, the 1887 law that former President Donald Trump tried to exploit after the 2020 election.

Compared with the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, tinkering with the Electoral Count Act is "unacceptably insufficient and even offensive," Schumer said in early January. "If you're going to rig the game and then say, 'Oh, we'll count the rigged game accurately,' what good is that?"

Now, however, "Schumer is quietly stoking bipartisan talks about updating the Electoral Count Act," Politico reports. He hasn't committed to either the version being worked on by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) or a bipartisan overhaul under construction by a core group of nine Senate Republicans led by Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and seven Democrats, including Manchin and Sinema. "But Schumer's disinterest in quashing the 16-member bipartisan crew is itself notable," Politico says.

Collins says she wants her group's bill to narrowly focus on raising the bar for members of Congress to object to a candidate's electors and clarifying that a vice president can't unilaterally flip states, plus maybe protecting election workers. Some of the Democrats would prefer adding other measures. Schumer is "waiting to see what deal, if anything, the group comes up with before gaming out whether legislation could win 60 votes on the Senate floor," Politico says.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has led the opposition to changing the filibuster and the Democrats' voting rights push, has said he's "happy to take a look at what they come up with," because the 1887 law "clearly is flawed."

Most Democrats agree with McConnell that the Electoral Count Act is flawed, even if "some have chafed at the idea of working on this issue as a replacement for the failed efforts on voting rights legislation," The New Republic reports. "But experts warn that the risk of future election subversion is dire enough to necessitate reform, even if other voting rights measures are unable to pass in Congress."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misstated Sen. King's state. It has been corrected. We regret the error.

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