Congressional District 12 hopefuls support bipartisan electoral count reform hoping to avoid repeat of Jan. 6 attack

NY-12 Congressional debate
WNYC Senior Politics Reporter Brigid Bergin, foreground left, and NY1 Politics Anchor Errol Louis moderate as Rep. Carolyn Maloney, background left, Rep. Jerry Nadler, center and attorney Suraj Patel debate during New York’s 12th Congressional District Democratic primary debate hosted by Spectrum News NY1 and WNYC at the CUNY Graduate Center, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool)

A survey of the three Democratic frontrunners in the Congressional primary race for New York’s District 12 will tell you it’s not just Manhattan that’s on the ballot, it’s American democracy itself.

In recent debates and forums the candidates have all made the case that they are best suited to do the most to protect the peaceful transfer of power in the next presidential election.

The timing of the primary coincides with a bipartisan effort by Congress to do just that by reforming the country’s arcane system for counting votes. At the end of July, a group of 16 senators announced new legislation aimed at changing the language in the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, the law that governs the certification of Electoral College results which former President Donald Trump used in his attempt to overturn the 2020 election outcome. 

The Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022 (ECRA) is aimed at replacing ambiguous provisions of the 19th-century law with clear procedures that maintain state and federal roles in selecting the President and Vice President of the United States as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

In addition to its Republican sponsors like Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, its supporters include all three Democratic candidates running to represent Manhattan in the House — Congress Members Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, and insurgent Suraj Patel.

I absolutely support the Electoral Count Act. We must do everything we can to protect our democracy by ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. The events on Jan. 6 showed us how dangerously close we were to experiencing a constitutional crisis,” said Maloney in a statement.

A spokesperson for Nadler, who called the Republican party insurrectionist in last week’s NY1 debate, said that he also supported the new bill.

Patel connected the bill to other forms of electoral reform in a statement that attacked his opponents for pursuing the gerrymandered Congressional map that was thrown out in court.

“This district looks like it does because the incumbents failed to gerrymander their own lines and that is why protecting and defending our democracy is so vital.  Whether it’s gerrymandering, protecting the right to vote, ensuring the safety and security of our elections or ensuring the peaceful transition of power, New York voters know I will always be on the side of democracy,” Patel wrote.

Nadler and Maloney both co-sponsored a bill that addresses gerrymandering by establishing independent redistricting commissions to carry out Congressional redistricting. 

Asked about other proposals like the “Wyoming Rule,” which would increase the size of the House of Representatives so that the standard representative-to-population ratio would be that of the smallest state, Nadler and Patel each expressed the desire to pursue various electoral reforms.

Nadler’s spokesperson said he is supportive of many measures to expand the size of the House and increase levels of representation – “the Wyoming Rule certainly merits consideration.”

Patel did not commit to supporting a “Wyoming Rule” proposal but has supported a national popular vote for the presidential election.

Maloney did not respond directly to the inquiry about expanding the House of Representatives.