To understand these reforms, one must become familiar with what could be called “the Mastriano scenario”.
Imagine virulent insurgent Doug Mastriano, the GOP candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, winning a victory in November. Then, in 2024, Governor Mastriano corruptly certifies presidential voters in the state for Trump or another GOP nominee, in defiance of the popular vote choosing the Democrat. If a GOP-controlled House chose to count these bogus voters, they could run, resulting in chaos or worse.
This could very well happen under the current law regulating such things – the Electoral Count Act – if it is not reformed. The revision of the LCE is essential to prevent this (among other things) from happening.
The new CEA reform bill in the House — called the Presidential Election Reform Act — is the work of Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The Democratic-controlled House will vote in a few days.
The bill would do a lot of things, like clarify that the vice president’s role in counting voters is merely ceremonial. But for our purposes here, what matters are the bill’s safeguards against the Mastriano scenario.
In that regard, the House bill attempts to improve on another CEA reform bill that a bipartisan group of senators introduced in July. This Senate bill established important standards: it specified that states must appoint electors in accordance with existing electoral rules. before election, so a state legislature cannot simply nominate voters for the loser of the popular vote. It established a new judicial review mechanism to oversee this process.
The new House bill goes further in protecting against future coup attempts. It’s deep in the weeds, but bear with us.
Under the Senate bill, if a corrupt governor certifies voters in defiance of the popular vote, an aggrieved candidate can sue him. A federal judicial panel would step in and designate the legitimate voters, subject to review by the Supreme Court. Congress would be required to count these legitimate voters.
But here a problem may arise. If the corrupt governor simply ignores the new law and disregards what the court has said — and certifies bogus voters in defiance of that court ruling — then a GOP-controlled House of Representatives could also ignore the new law. and count these fake voters.
The House bill adds an additional safeguard: If a corrupt governor defies this review by a judicial committee and refuses to certify voters the committee has deemed legitimate, the House measure empowers that committee to nominate another government official to certify these legitimate voters.
Congress would then be required to count those voters. This would completely remove the weapon from the hands of the corrupt governor.
“If a rogue governor refuses to do his constitutional duty, this bill empowers the court to order another official to do it for him,” ECA expert jurist Matthew Seligman told us. Seligman noted that this additional safeguard improves the Senate bill by “strengthening” it against a governor who has gone truly “rogue.”
This “rogue” scenario could occur if Republicans win governorships in swing states other than Pennsylvania. For example, in Arizona, GOP candidate Kari Lake has made challenging the 2020 election central to her campaign. In Michigan, candidate Tudor Dixon spread Trump’s lies in 2020.
If an election comes down to one or more states with rogue governors, it would be surprising if they doesn’t attempt to carry out this coup plan. And given that more than half the members of the upcoming House GOP caucus are expected to be outright deniers of the legitimacy of Trump’s 2020 loss, it would be surprising if a House GOP didn’t play along.
We shouldn’t have to rely so much on the goodwill of state officials to ensure that whoever wins the presidency takes office. But Trump exposed the huge flaws in our system, and the conscious intent of his supporters and the Republican Party as a whole to exploit them.
Once the House passes the CEA reform, the next step will be to merge it with the Senate version. It is absolutely essential to do this before the Republicans take control of the House and make it impossible to prevent the next coup.