Thune urges Congress to clear up vice president’s role in counting Electoral College votes

Senate Minority Whip John Thune on Tuesday urged Congress to update a 135-year-old law that many believe helped spur President Trump’s challenge to the 2020 election results and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Thune, South Dakota Republican, said during an event in his home state that it was important to update the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887 to clear up questions about the vice president’s role in certifying elections and the electoral votes submitted by the states.

“Because there was a question raised about the role of the vice president, I think it’s important to slam the door shut and make that unequivocally clear,” said Mr. Thune. “Hopefully it won’t be controversial, because to me, it shouldn’t be.”

For months, the senators have been discussing how to rewrite the law’s guidelines for counting and certifying Electoral College votes after a presidential election. Democrats and Republicans say the law needs to be updated to remove ambiguity.

Under the law, the vice president presides over the Electoral College certification process. Exactly what that means was widely debated in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2020 election. Mr. Trump and his allies argued that the vice president has the authority to reject electors from states with election “irregularities.”

Vice President Mike Pence and others took a different view. They said the vice president could only preside over the congressional count, not adjudicate the legitimacy of state electoral vote certifications. In making the argument, many noted that the ECA stipulates that only Electoral College tallies affirmed by state governors can be accepted for certification.


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“To his credit, Mike Pence understood that — and he got legal opinions leading up to it — and despite all the pressure that he got, he stood firm and understood what that role was,” said Mr. Thune. 

Despite Mr. Thune’s endorsement, negotiations on rewriting the ECA have lost momentum. Proponents hope, however, that a series of high profile hearings on the Jan. 6 incident will revamp interest on Capitol Hill.

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