Maine’s U.S. senators are hoping that a bipartisan effort to prevent future attempts to overturn a presidential election during the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes will get across the finish line before the end of the year.

Both Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King have been at the forefront of the effort to correct the shortcomings in the 1887 Electoral Count Act exploited by former President Donald Trump in his effort on Jan. 6, 2021, to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election. The Senate has yet to act on a bipartisan bill negotiated in July by Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia. The current, Democrat-controlled House passed a very similar bill in late September, but if the Senate doesn’t act by the end of the year the process would have to begin again in the House, which will come under Republican control in the new session.

Sen. Angus King says, “This commonsense bill will strengthen the seams of our democracy and ensure the will of the voter prevails – I look forward to getting it done.” Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer 

“It hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting close,” King said via email this week, adding that he was feeling optimistic given that it had been endorsed by the Senate rules committee on a bipartisan, 14-1 vote.

Collins said Tuesday that she had obtained six more co-sponsors, including Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina. The bill now has 16 Republican co-sponsors, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, plus King and 19 Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

“It is extremely unusual for both Senate leaders to co-sponsor the same bill,” Collins said in a written statement this week.

“I am continuing to push for this bill to be enacted into law before the end of the year,” she added. “I do not see the midterms as having an effect.”


Some members of Congress might feel more compelled to pass the bill after Trump’s announcement Tuesday that he is running for president again in 2024, although there are still many Republicans who have supported Trump’s baseless claims that the election was somehow rigged against him.

Sen. Susan Collins says she is “continuing to push for this bill to be enacted into law before the end of the year. I do not see the midterms as having an effect.”Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Senate bill would close the door on anyone repeating the former president’s attempt to pressure a vice president to arbitrarily block ceremonial certification of the final Electoral College ballots by explicitly stating that vice presidents don’t have the power to judge or overturn the Electoral College results. It also raises the bar for lodging objections to Electoral College results from one member of Congress to at least one-fifth of the members, and eliminates a loophole that state legislatures could use to throw out election results simply by declaring the election to be “failed.” These changes received broad support from an ideologically mixed panel of election experts at an Aug. 3 hearing before the Senate rules committee.

A wrinkle was added into the process on Sept. 22, when leaders of the Democrat-controlled House passed over a bill with language matching the Senate legislation in favor of a slightly tougher bill co-sponsored by Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. The move, which came as a surprise to many senators, means the two bills would need to be reconciled without losing more than six of the current Senate Republican supporters.

The House version, which passed 229-203 with nine Republicans in favor, sets the bar even higher for lodging objections to the results, at one-third of members instead of one-fifth.  Both of Maine’s House members, Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Jared Golden, D-2nd District, voted in favor.

King, who caucuses with Democrats and helped draft a set of Electoral Count Act reform recommendations used by the bipartisan group, said Tuesday that it was vital that the legislation gets passed and signed into law.

“January 6, 2021, was a nightmare that tore at the fabric of our democratic process,” he said. “This commonsense bill will strengthen the seams of our democracy and ensure the will of the voter prevails – I look forward to getting it done.”

While the Electoral Count Act reforms have garnered some bipartisan support, many Republicans have balked at proposals to protect other aspects of elections, including measures to make it easier for people to register and vote nationwide that have long been standard practice in Maine – same-day voter registration, early in-person voting, and mail-in absentee ballots – as well as requiring electronic voting machines to have paper trails as a remedy to suspected hacking.

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