By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced two bills on Wednesday to reform election laws, seeking to block a repeat of then-President Donald Trump's failed attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.
The legislation, among other things, would make clear that the vice president has only a ceremonial role in certifying election results, after a mob of Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, stormed the U.S. Capitol in a bid to force then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election result.
The action came amid growing evidence from the House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 melee that Trump sought to overturn his loss by spreading falsehoods about a rigged election.
Introduced by the group led by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Susan Collins, the two bills address a range of issues, from the handling of election results and presidential transitions to mail-in ballots, election record security and threats against election workers.
"We urge our colleagues in both parties to support these simple, commonsense reforms," said a statement released by the group of seven Democrats and nine Republicans.
Similar legislation is also being pursued by two Democrats, Senator Richard Durbin and Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, along with independent Senator Angus King. Democrats in the House are also pursuing legislation.
Lawmakers hope to enact a package of election law reforms this year, while the House and Senate are under Democratic control.
"The January 6th commission has added urgency," King said in a statement welcoming the bipartisan group's legislation. "This will help build consensus around approaches that will reinforce the seams in the fabric of democracy we've seen stretched too thin."
One bill introduced on Wednesday would reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act by clarifying the appropriate state and federal roles in choosing the president and vice president, and provide clear guidelines on when federal resources can be allocated to eligible presidential candidates.
A second piece of legislation would double federal penalties for those who threaten or intimidate election workers, poll watchers, voters or candidates. It would also seek to improve the handling of mail-in ballots by the U.S. Postal System and states, authorize the federal agency that administers elections and safeguard election records.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Richard Chang and Jonathan Oatis)