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Could Mike Johnson, the New House Speaker, Undermine the 2024 Election?

Ever since Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana assumed office on Wednesday, a question has been on Democrats’ minds: Could the elevation of Mr. Johnson, who worked in league with former President Donald J. Trump in trying to undermine the 2020 election results, allow him to succeed in 2024 where he failed the last time?

The speakership, which is second in line to the presidency, comes with broad powers over the functioning of the House. And Mr. Johnson, a constitutional lawyer whose stature in his party has grown with his election to the top post, could try again to interfere. But there are several reasons that Mr. Johnson’s new job alone would not allow him special powers to overturn the will of the voters unilaterally.

Here’s how it works.

The vice president, not the speaker, presides over Congress’s counting of electoral votes.

When Mr. Trump was attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, his pressure campaign focused on his own vice president, Mike Pence, who was presiding over the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, to count the electoral votes. Mr. Trump encouraged Mr. Pence to throw out legitimate votes in favor of false slates of electors, a move Mr. Pence said was unconstitutional.

Vice President Kamala Harris is in line to preside over the joint session on Jan. 6, 2025, when Congress will meet in a joint session to certify the results of the 2024 election. The speaker has no special role in the proceedings.

Johnson may not even be speaker by then.

Mr. Johnson, 51, just became speaker, but his term will expire before Jan. 6, 2025.

Should Democrats prevail in the House in the 2024 election — an outcome many analysts see as a strong possibility — a Democrat would take over control of the chamber, likely the current minority leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Should Republicans hold the House, Mr. Johnson would need to win another leadership election among his party. Given how raucous the Republican conference has been in recent months, that’s not a sure thing either.

The Electoral Count Reform Act has tightened safeguards.

In the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s attempt to cling to power, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, passed a reform bill to try to ensure no similar plan could be carried out in the future.

The new law makes clear that a vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is “solely ministerial,” with no power to reject electors. It also requires that one-fifth of both the House and Senate sign on before any objection to state’s electors can be heard. The law also limits the grounds for objections.

Republicans who defend Mr. Johnson’s actions related to the 2020 election note that Democrats have objected to certain states’ electors during previous congressional certifications. But they have never done so as part of an organized campaign directed by their candidate, with false slates of electors being put forward and a violent mob assembled at the Capitol demanding that the election results be reversed.

Mr. Johnson could still attempt to undermine the election.

While Mr. Johnson cannot unilaterally overturn the 2024 election, he could attempt other extreme steps to try to interfere with certification.

For example, Mr. Johnson could use the power of his bully pulpit and his status as a party leader to organize Republican lawsuits or pressure state boards of elections to throw out legitimate votes. He could attempt to refuse to seat new Democratic members of the House.

“His main power would be as party leader,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, who served on the House Jan. 6 committee.

Mr. Johnson also could demand that Republicans in Congress vote as a bloc on Jan. 6, 2025, against certifying election results. But he would need 20 percent of both chambers to agree to object, and then a majority of both chambers to vote to sustain the objection.

Should that occur, the presidential election could fall to a contingent election of the House, in which state delegations would decide who became the next president. Such a scenario — in which the House selected a president who had lost at the ballot box — would almost certainly end up in the courts.

Those who have studied the reforms to the Electoral Count Act see it as highly unlikely that Mr. Johnson could lead enough Republicans in both chambers against the will of the voters.

“The election deniers are far from having 51 votes in the United States Senate, and that’s not going to change for many, many years,” said Norman L. Eisen, who was a special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and testified on the need for reform legislation. “Fortunately, the Electoral Count Reform Act has closed off many of the avenues that would be available to mischief makers. But given his history, we will have to be on our guard.”

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