Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during hearing on the fiscal year 2023 budget for the FBI in Washington, May 25, 2022. A bipartisan group of senators, including Collins, released proposed changes July 20, to the Electoral Count Act, the post-Civil War-era law for certifying presidential elections that came under intense scrutiny after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election. Credit: Ting Shen

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

Congress has returned from its August break with a busy schedule. Lawmakers need to fund the federal government before the end of the month to avert a shutdown (sound familiar?) and the Senate is working on legislation to write marriage equality into federal law, among other things.

With a polarizing midterm election on deck and an uncertain lame duck period after that, it is not much of an overstatement to say that this Congress is starting to run out of time to pass legislation before a new collection of lawmakers is sworn in to start the new year.

That realization should emphasize the importance of moving forward — purposefully but not hurriedly — with reforms to the Electoral Count Act (ECA), the antiquated statute from the late 1800s whose ambiguity helped fuel the chaos at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

With former President Donald Trump at the center of that chaos and continued efforts to undermine the legitimacy of an election that happened nearly two years ago at this point, and with Trump still squarely at the forefront of the Republican Party, it could be easy for his influence and the politics at play here to prevent any action on this much-needed electoral reform.

But somehow, at least for now, cooler and policy-driven heads have prevailed over the political whirlwinds. It seems there is agreement in both parties that there is room, and urgency, for updating and strengthening the process of Congress certifying electors in presidential elections.

A bipartisan group of senators led by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin spent months wading through this complicated matter to produce the Electoral Count Reform Act, which would take several steps such as clarifying that the vice president’s role in certifying electors is ministerial, raising the threshold for members of Congress to challenge electors, working to facilitate a single and definitive slate of electors from each state, and working to prevent states from changing their election laws after an election has already taken place.

This led to a relatively kumbaya moment, which is rare especially in the current political climate, during a hearing held by the Senate Rules Committee in early August. Both Democratic and Republican leaders of that committee, and other panel members like independent Sen. Angus King, welcomed the bipartisan progress while discussing some potential technical changes to the proposal.

That positive momentum gained even more steam when Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa signed on as a cosponsor, hitting a magic number of sorts as the tenth Republican to do so. That is the number needed to join all Democratic senators to overcome a filibuster in the closely divided Senate. And that is no small thing.

Given this progress, we remain hopeful that Congress will seize this moment to pass much-needed ECA reform. With all the talk about safeguarding democracy heading into future elections, passing this legislation must be a priority before the new year. And there is a clear, bipartisan path to achieving that.

There is already enough Republican support, if Democrats in both the Senate and House of Representatives are willing to accept what some may view as a less than perfect fix to a clear and present problem that was exposed on Jan. 6, 2021.

Given what is at stake, Democrats must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

So while we understand the committee process is ongoing and the Senate schedule is not without complications, we certainly hope these conversations don’t drag out much longer. We don’t say this to rush things unnecessarily, but instead to point out that time will eventually run out and the stakes are high.

With the finish line in sight, failure on this reform effort should not be an option.

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...