At the end of 2022, Congress approved a nearly 1,000 page $1.7 trillion omnibus package to fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown before Christmas. Buried in those pages was an amendment that should provide West Virginians some peace of mind when it comes to how our country certifies the election of our President and Vice President.
Ahead of the intensifying presidential race in 2024, the passage of the Electoral Count Act was exactly the bipartisan handshake Americans needed to see. So rather than expecting voters to wade through 1,000 pages, allow me to give you the high points.
The ambiguous and outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) had been the law of the land for a long time, but it has been used increasingly in recent years as a tool to cast doubts on the process for counting and certifying electoral slates for president. Both major political parties are guilty of this. While the election drama of January 2020 was the most recent and the most public, the abuse of the electoral system unquestionably sows doubts about election integrity into already wary Americans.
January 6 also left many elected officials concerned about the future of the electoral process. As a former West Virginia state senator, I know voters want and need integrity throughout the election process.
I’m confident the reformed Electoral Count Act will deliver this certainty to voters, especially West Virginia voters, primarily because it was done in a bipartisan way and championed by our very own U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
The legislation states the vice president has solely a ministerial role in presiding over the joint session of Congress when lawmakers certify Electoral College results. It also raises the threshold to lodge an objection to a slate of electors to one-fifth of the Senate and one-fifth of the House – limiting the ability of a disgruntled lawmaker to challenge the votes without a more widely held belief in fraud. Other changes included providing an expedited judicial review of legal challenges to the slate of electors and allowing direct appeals to the Supreme Court.
While laws like this are complex, the bottom line is that it limits the chances for elections to be weaponized and observers to question results without reasonable cause. It also responsibly decentralizes the electoral system, giving states the power to design and enforce their election laws to meet the needs of their constituents.
As Senator Capito recognized, members of Congress shouldn’t have the power to overturn lawfully cast votes at the expense of credibility from voters.
The bipartisan, good-faith negotiations we saw take place in the design and ultimate passage of the revised ECA should not begin and end in the last Congress. Rather, it should open the doors to other opportunities for lawmakers to put party politics aside and get needed reforms passed. In the case of the ECA, Senators could have gotten sidetracked by either party’s dissenters or even allowed filibuster threats from the House to push the ECA amendment off the legislative calendar. Instead, they remained focused on getting the reforms across the finish line; otherwise, they likely would have lost the opportunity for good in this new Congress.
Thanks to Senator Capito and her 38 Senate colleagues who cosponsored the ECA legislation, we are one step closer to preventing future attacks on the election system. As we settle into the new Congress, I encourage lawmakers to reflect on the bipartisanship that was had for the ECA and keep up its momentum.
Greg Boso is a forensic engineer in Summersville, W.Va., and former member of the West Virginia State Senate.