On Jan. 6, 2021, the U.S. House and Senate certified the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election during a joint session of Congress. Although the certification procedure is typically noncontroversial, in 2021 it was obstructed by scores of Republican members of Congress who made baseless allegations of voter fraud and by a mob of Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol building, interrupting the joint session in process as lawmakers escaped the chambers before being attacked by rioters.
Prior to the certification procedure, Trump repeatedly pressured Vice President Mike Pence to abuse his oversight role in the process by rejecting the Electoral College results. These efforts were fueled by fringe legal theories from John Eastman, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, and other Trump advisors who argued that Pence had the unilateral authority to declare slates of electors invalid. Immediately before he began presiding over the Jan. 6 certification process, Pence reiterated that ”my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
The riot that interrupted the certification proceedings occurred shortly after the first Republican legislators raised unfounded objections to Arizona’s electors. Once the joint session was allowed to reconvene later that night, several members of Congress decided to withhold their objections. Nevertheless, a total of 139 Republican members of the House voted to reject electors from Arizona and/or Pennsylvania. The objection to Arizona’s electors was raised by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) but was ultimately defeated by a vote of 303–121. The Pennsylvania objection was raised by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.) but was defeated 282–138.
Republican Representatives also raised objections to electors submitted by several other states, but these objections did not result in a vote. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) objected to Georgia’s electors, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) objected to Michigan’s, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) objected to Nevada’s, and Rep. Louie Gomert (R-Texas) objected to Wisconsin’s.
January 6, 2021
Several high-profile Republican members of the House and Senate spoke out against certification.
- Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), speaking on the floor after the insurrection, stated, “Tens of millions of Americans are concerned that the 2020 election featured unconstitutional overreach by unelected state officials and judges ignoring state election laws. We can and we should peacefully and respectfully discuss these concerns.”
- Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), delivered remarks objecting to how Pennsylvania selected its electors, stating, “This objection is about Pennsylvania, but it affects every state. As a representative of New Mexico, Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional actions disenfranchised my constituents and the constituents of my colleagues.”
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who objected to Michigan’s electors, said, “The same people who for four years have failed to find a shred of evidence to convict President Trump of Russian collusion are the same people trying to discredit American poll workers who are risking perjury signing affidavits confirming massive voter fraud in multiple states.”