Jimmy Carter, James Baker call for reforms to ‘antiquated, muddled’ Electoral Count Act

Former President Carter and former White House chief of staff James Baker penned an op-ed calling for reforms to the 1887 law that governs the counting of Electoral College votes, arguing that the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot is the latest example of why change is necessary.

The duo’s op-ed, published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday evening, provides support to ongoing negotiations being led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to reform the Electoral Count Act in the wake of the Capitol riot, when then-Vice President Mike Pence was pressured to exploit the statute’s ambiguities to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

“The threat of confusion remains,” Carter and Baker wrote. “Left unclosed, loopholes in the act could allow a repeat of the same destructive path that occurred in 2021.”

Multiple outlets have reported that the bipartisan group of senators is expected to release their proposed reforms this week.

The piece by Carter, a Democratic president, and Baker, who served as chief of staff under Republican Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, highlights that bipartisan support.

“We stand on opposite sides of the partisan divide, but we believe it is better to search for solutions together than to remain divided,” the two wrote. “This is particularly true of a vexing problem that could wreak havoc during the 2024 presidential election: the inadequacy of the Electoral Count Act of 1887.”

Carter and Baker called the act potentially unconstitutional, antiquated and muddled, pointing to efforts by a limited number of lawmakers who attempted to mount objections to the Electoral College votes after the 2000, 2004 and 2016 elections.

“The act became law 10 years after several states submitted competing slates of electoral votes during the disputed Reconstruction-era election of 1876,” they wrote. “It spawned no controversy for the next 30 presidential elections. Weaknesses in the law started to become apparent after the 2000 election.”

But perhaps most notable is the 2020 election, when Trump and his allies pressured Pence to overturn the election results in his role as president of the Senate on Jan. 6, 2021, when the Electoral College votes were counted.

In a now-infamous memo written by attorney John Eastman, he outlined a strategy for Pence to block the counting of votes from states in which Trump was putting forth unfounded claims of election fraud.

Pence ultimately rejected that he had the authority to do so, but the developments have led some lawmakers to draw concerns over how the law could be exploited in the future.

“The need to reform the Electoral Count Act is too great for our elected leaders to get bogged down in the zero-sum game of politics that characterizes Washington today,” Carter and Baker wrote.

Tags Donald Trump Electoral Count Act James Baker Jan. 6 Capitol riot jimmy carter Jimmy Carter Mike Pence Susan Collins

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