By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A 135-year-old federal election law will start getting a makeover in Congress this week in response to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by then-President Donald Trump's supporters trying to stop certification of Joe Biden's victory.
Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Republican Liz Cheney, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Monday unveiled proposed changes in the 1887 Electoral Count Act that authorizes the House and U.S. Senate to meet every four years, in early January, following November presidential elections.
Under the procedure, the two chambers approve each state's Electoral College count, which is based on the popular vote as well as a state's population. The law includes a mechanism for members of Congress to challenge any state's certification.
The House Rules Committee is set to review the legislation on Tuesday, likely sending it for a vote by the full House as early as Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a Senate panel has scheduled a Sept. 27 vote on its version of the legislation, which is expected to be similar to that of the House.
Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress by narrow margins, hope to attract Republican support, which failed to materialize in a previous voter reform effort that would have broadened the use of mail-in ballots and other procedures.
The House bill reaffirms that the vice president's role in Congress' certification of the newly elected president is ceremonial and that he or she has no power to suspend or overturn the certification.
Trump and his allies in Congress had urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop the process and challenged various states' results as they falsely claimed Biden's victory was the result of voter fraud. Pence declined.
The legislation would toughen the standards for members of Congress to raise objections to any state's certification. At present, only one member from the House and one from the Senate are required. Under the bill, that would change to one-third of the 435-member House and 100-member Senate.
Trump allies also floated a plan in December 2020 for replacing the electors in key states so that new slates, comprised of his supporters, could determine the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
The House bill would ensure that the states conduct presidential elections under state laws as they exist prior to Election Day.
This effort, however, does not include broader steps that have passed the House previously, aimed at broadening voters' access to the ballot box and imposing tougher punishments on those who try to intimidate state or local election workers.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Howard Goller)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.