Price Seeks to Push Back Electoral College Activity

Posted June 11, 2007 at 5:54pm

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) reintroduced a measure last week that would push back the date when the Electoral College meets to give additional time for recounts in presidential elections.

Originally introduced in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, the Count Every Vote Act would change the date when the Electoral College meets to officially select the winner of the presidency, moving it from mid-December to early January.

“We have an obligation to go to the greatest lengths to ensure that the results of our elections are accurate,” Price said in a statement. “The public’s trust in our electoral system is a cornerstone of our democracy, and that trust should never be undermined by a simple scheduling conflict.”

Although the bill has gained little traction in past Congresses (Price introduced a similar measure in April 2005, but it failed to attract any co-sponsors and advance out of committee), a spokesman said Monday that the Congressman is optimistic the bill will get attention this session.

“We’re far enough from the 2000 election that hopefully the rancor and the partisanship that characterized the Florida recount has subsided,” Price spokesman Paul Cox said.

A Democratic-controlled Congress also will be helpful in gaining attention for the measure, Cox added.

“At the time he introduced it, it was seen by some as a very partisan thing,” Cox said of the original bill. “It was unlikely it would be taken up by a Republican Congress.”

The date of the Electoral College played a big role in determining the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore.

After weeks of legal wrangling over whether ballot recounts in Florida should continue, the Supreme Court overturned a state Supreme Court decision that ordered about 170,000 votes recounted.

In the majority opinion, the justices argued that the recounts should be stopped in part because they could not be finished by the federal deadline for state legislatures to pick electors.

If Electoral College activity was pushed back by a few weeks, difficulties like those that took place in Florida might be avoided in future presidential contest disputes, Cox said.

“We shouldn’t be cutting short the recount simply because the Electoral College is set to meet,” Cox said.

Under current federal guidelines, electors meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Under Price’s measure, electors would meet on the first day after Jan. 1 that follows their appointment. (If that day is a Sunday, electors would meet on the second day.)

The bill also would give electors more leeway in how they deliver election certificates to the archivist of the United States and the President of the Senate.

Current law requires electors to submit such documents through registered mail, but Price’s bill would allow them to send certificates through “the most expeditious method available,” including overnight delivery or a secure form of electronic transmission.

Such language is included in the bill merely for convenience purposes, Cox said.

“Those provisions are intended to allow for the most expedient effective transmission of the electoral results,” he said.

The bill is set to be referred to the House Administration Committee. Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) had not yet received a copy of the measure Monday and declined to comment, according to an aide.

A spokeswoman for House Administration ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) also declined to comment, citing the need to review the legislation.

Price has introduced a number of measures designed to reform the voting system. He joined with Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) last week to introduce legislation that would allow candidates to request that their national party committees not pay for advertising in their races.

Under current law, candidates are prohibited from asking committees to not run ads in their race. So if committees run ads candidates disagree with, they are virtually powerless to stop things.

“This simple measure is about giving candidates the ability to reject mudslinging — even if it’s being used against their opponents,” Price said.

In the meantime, Price likely will continue to push for the Electoral College bill.

“He’s still introducing it because he thinks it’s still important,” Cox said. “He’s still going to push for it.”