U.S. Senator Steve Daines announced on Saturday that he would be joining a handful of other Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, in rejecting the Electoral College results of several disputed states, unless an electoral commission is formed to conduct an audit of the election results of those states.
In a joint statement released by the senators, the group acknowledges that movement is unlikely to change the results of the presidential election, saying:
“We are not naïve. We fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise. But support of election integrity should not be a partisan issue. A fair and credible audit—conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20—would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President. We owe that to the People.”
The reason why this potential objection to the results most likely will not change the outcome of the election is that the process of objecting to one or more electoral votes requires a majority vote from both chambers of Congress to agree to the objection. According to the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan public policy research institute, both houses must vote separately to agree to the objection by simple majority. Otherwise, the objection fails and the votes are counted. The Congressional Research Service also stated that these procedures have been invoked twice since enactment of the law in 1887.
So, that’s how the process works, and here’s why a majority vote seems to be unattainable for this group of senators. Democrats currently hold a majority in the House, and while Republicans currently have a slim majority in the Senate (pending the results of the January 5 runoff election in Georgia, which could give Democrats a Senate majority if Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both defeat their Republican opponents), a number of moderate Republicans have already said they would not vote to toss out a state's votes.
Other questions raised by this group’s movement are which states do they consider to be “disputed." President Trump’s legal team has targeted Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and other states won by President-elect Biden in attempts to overturn election results there, but Daines and his colleagues have not specified which states they would like an electoral commission to audit.
Also, former Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice, several nonpartisan officials, federal judges and even the Supreme Court of the United States have either refused to entertain claims of voter fraud or outright said there was not widespread voter fraud to the extent that it could change the outcome of the election. Despite that reality, the joint statement from the senators says, “the 2020 election, however, featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.”
Daines and the other senators also did not specify whether, if a commission was formed and if they did find significant evidence of voter fraud in a certain state to the point where the results of that election could be called into question, they would want to overturn the results of the other races on that ballot, such as the senatorial and gubernatorial races.
Senator Jon Tester’s press secretary, Roy Loewenstein, sent us the following statement regarding Daines’ and the other senators’ call for an election commission audit:
“Senator Tester believes it’s long past time for these irresponsible attacks that put our democracy at risk to end. The election is over—Senator Tester is urging both sides to focus on working together to heal our partisan divisions and address the serious issues facing our nation.”
We also asked Senator Daines whether he was concerned about potential voter fraud in Montana, or only in the states that the group is calling “disputed.”
We’ll continue to follow this story if we hear more from Senator Daines or the handful of other lawmakers involved in this movement, especially as we get closer to the next important dates in the election process — when Congress meets to count and certify the Electoral College votes on January 6, and when President-Elect Biden is inaugurated on January 20.