Collins’ Trojan Horse election ‘reform’ lumbers along, still falls short of saving democracy

“We’ve reached consensus on some of the key issues, such as the role of the vice president, to have language making clear that it’s ministerial; increasing the threshold in both the House and the Senate that is necessary to trigger a challenge; and some issues involving the transition period. And a few other issues,” she said. But, she said “some in our group” want to include voting rights provisions. “I would much prefer that we keep this focus on the ECA. It’s 135 years old. It was a source of confusion and ambiguity on Jan. 6. And we need to take care of it.”

Listen to Jennifer Fernandez Ancona from Way to Win explain how Democrats must message to win on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld

She expanded on that, telling Politico “There are some Democrats who feel very strongly about going back and revisiting the Voting Rights Act provisions. And my worry is that it will kill the bill.”

Of course she doesn’t want to restore voting rights. She’s a Republican. She wants to be perceived as doing something to protect presidential elections so people don’t notice she’s backing the white supremacist Republican efforts to keep Black, brown, young, and otherwise marginalized people from being able to exercise their most fundamental right in this country: voting. She and the other Republicans (and Manchin) insist that the problem in the 2020 election was solely about what happened on Jan. 6.

This is a substantial backslide from where Collins started with this whole diversionary tactic. Back in early January, when she was trying to make sure voting rights legislation was stopped in its tracks, Collins was talking about securing elections, as well. She said then that they needed to reform the ECA and were also “ looking at additional protections against violence and threats for poll workers and election officials.”

A group of Senate Democrats quickly drafted  their own version of ECA reform, the Electoral Count Modernization Act. They worked with “with legal experts and election law scholars” from “across the political spectrum” to “establish clear, consistent, and fair procedures for the counting and certification of electoral votes for the presidency” and address the ambiguities in the 1887 Electoral Count Act.

While those senators—Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King, Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Senate Majority Whip and Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL)—insisted that they also want to see voting rights legislation passed, they offered this to “clarify ambiguities in the electoral process after Election Day to truly ensure the will of the voters will prevail.”

That includes measures to keep bad partisan actors at the state level from hijacking the process and prohibiting state legislatures from appointing electors after Election Day to prevent the appointment of electors who would try to overturn election results. It would also make sure there is another layer of protection by allowing “limited judicial review” to make sure that courts could ensure that electors appointed by a state “reflect the popular vote results in the state.”

Those provisions are probably what Republicans like Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (WV) are complaining about when they say the Democrats want too much. She complained that “I don’t think we’ve made much progress over the last two weeks.” Asked if the bill could possibly pass, she said “I think we do. But it’s going to have to be a narrow bill to get it done.” Translation: There are not 10 Republicans who would be willing to make sure that our elections are free of voter suppression and that all elected officials abide by the will of the voters.

Democrats participating in the talks, meanwhile, remain cautiously optimistic. “We want to see what we can agree on, and hopefully we can move forward on that. I would hope that whatever we agree on we can vote on this year,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-NH) said. “Now, we may not be able to agree on broader issues than just what’s in the Electoral Count Act. But if we reach agreement, I hope we can vote on that.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said “It’s very much alive. […] We can get a deal. We can get a deal, and we could get a whole bunch of votes in the Senate for it.”

Sure. It’s not terribly surprising that Collins is spearheading this play-act at elections reform. After all, while she fretted over the events of Jan. 6, she refuses to rule out supporting Trump if he runs again in 2024. So any Democrat counting on her to be working with them in good faith should keep that in mind.

Let’s be clear that passing electoral count reforms and doing away with the ambiguities of a 135-year-old law is critical. But it’s also not sufficient to restore our democratic processes. Passing this bill matters. But it’s not enough.


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