The congressional tally of the Electoral College results is typically a ceremonial procedure, however the process is likely to be drawn out on Wednesday in order to accommodate objections from various Republican members of Congress.
President Trump has refused to publicly concede defeat to Joe Biden, alleging that Democrats “stole” the elections via widespread voter fraud. Allies of the president have filed lawsuits in swing states to protest the results, but have failed to produce sufficient evidence of fraud claims.
A group of Republican senators and representatives, however, has committed to voicing objections to the electors put forward by swing states where fraud is alleged to have taken place. Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) was the first GOP senator to announce that he would object to the result certification. Shortly afterwards, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said he would do the same, in a letter signed by ten additional Senate Republicans.
“We intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until [an] emergency 10-day audit is completed,” Cruz wrote.
While the objections are not expected to overturn the election results, they could make the certification process take longer, and will divide GOP lawmakers among those who have been receptive to Trump’s fraud claims and others who dispute those claims — an outcome that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly sought to avoid.
Congress will convene a joint session at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, to begin a review of the Electoral College results. Pence will open states’ sealed certificates in alphabetical order and hand them to the “tellers,” a Republican and Democrat from each chamber of Congress.
The tellers then announce the results from the states, a process that will continue, unless there is an objection, until the vice president certifies the results.
To be debated, an objection to one state’s electoral votes must be raised by at least one House and one Senate member. A majority of both houses of Congress must vote to sustain the objection in order to reject the electoral votes of the state in question.
Congress has rejected a slate of electors only once, for the newly incorporated state of Hawaii in 1961, which possessed only three electoral votes. In that case, Hawaii submitted two slates of electors, since their initial election results was overturned in a court-ordered recount, and it fell to Congress to determine which slate of electors was valid.
Because Democrats hold a majority in the House, it will be impossible for Republicans to sustain whatever objections are raised. While Republicans hold the Senate, McConnell has indicated that the Electoral College results will pass.
“As of this this morning, our country has officially a President-elect and a Vice President-elect,” McConnell told reporters on December 15, after electors cast their votes to make Biden’s victory official. “The Electoral College has spoken…I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Several staunch Trump allies, including Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Lee of Utah, have announced that they will not object to the results.
“Objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give the president a second term. With Democrats in control of the House, Republicans have no chance of invalidating even a single electoral vote, much less enough votes to deny Joe Biden a majority in the Electoral College,” Cotton said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “These objections would exceed Congress’ constitutional power, while creating unwise precedents that Democrats could abuse the next time they are in power.”
Some of Trump’s post-election lawsuits will continue into the near future following Congress’s certification of the results. It is possible that some Republican lawmakers will continue to follow those suits, depending on how much influence Trump retains within the party after he leaves office.
However, because Republican objections to the Electoral College results have no chance of overturning the election results, the objections voiced by 2024 presidential hopefuls such as Hawley and Cruz are widely viewed as a Trump loyalty test meant to ingratiate the senators with the president’s many loyal supporters.
Electoral College Count: 2020 Election Drama to Be Settled on Capitol Hill The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ National Review.