Mitt Romney calls Republican effort to reject Electoral College votes a threat to democracy

“Has ambition so eclipsed principle?” the Utah senator asks.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune, file) Sen. Mitt Romney, pictured speaking at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City in February, blasted GOP plans to question the Electoral College results in a release on Jan. 2, 2021.

Sen. Mitt Romney on Saturday called the “ploy” by a group of senators, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, to reject Electoral College votes a threat to democracy. That effort is also supported by newly installed Utah Rep. Burgess Owens.

“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” he wrote in a statement. “The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it.”

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of 10 senators, including Romney, issued a statement again objecting to the effort to overturn the Electoral College results.

“At this point, further attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results,” they wrote.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee has not weighed in yet, but he acknowledged in December that Biden had won the election after the Electoral College vote.

On Jan. 6, Congress will meet to formally count the votes cast by the Electoral College. Democrat Joe Biden got 306 while President Donald Trump received 232. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the White House. An 1887 law allows for a challenge to a state’s electoral votes if an objection is made in writing by one senator and one member of the House.

If an objection is raised, then both the House and Senate will debate the issue in their chambers for up to two hours, followed by a vote whether to reject or accept the electors.

For Trump supporters to be able to overturn the results, Congress would have to reject the electors in several states. That effort is all but doomed to fail as Democrats control the House, and Republicans like Romney in the Senate are not on board with this plan.

Romney pointed out that more Americans participated in the 2020 election than any before it. He also noted that the Justice Department found no evidence of voter fraud and Trump’s attempts to challenge the election in different courts failed.

He said the argument from some of his Republican colleagues that having senators reject electors will increase confidence in elections is “nonsense.” Romney said Congress is a partisan body. He said having members of Congress substitute their judgment for the voters and the courts imperils public trust.

Romney said Trump’s call for his supporters to come to the Capitol when the matter is being debated has the potential to cause “disruption and worse.”

“I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world,” he said. “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”

So far, 12 Republican senators have said they will attempt to challenge, and possibly overturn the results in several states. The first was Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who announced his intentions last week. That was followed on Saturday by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was joined by 10 other Republicans, including all of the newly elected Republicans in the Senate.

Other GOP senators have joined Romney in denouncing the effort to challenge the results.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Saturday that she will affirm the 2020 election. She said the courts and state legislatures have honored their duty to hear legal allegations and found nothing that would warrant overturning the election results. She urges her colleagues from both parties to join her in “maintaining confidence” in U.S. elections.

Rep. Burgess Owens, who was officially sworn into office Sunday, has said he will join a group of representatives challenging the election on the House floor.

The Utah Republican said he believes Trump won the election. Owens thinks there were instances of misconduct like 42,000 votes being double-counted in Nevada. That claim was made by Trump’s press secretary, but Nevada officials have refuted it, and Trump’s supporters have not offered any evidence of voter fraud.

Owens, who played in the National Football League, used a football analogy to explain why he is challenging the election results.

“In 10 years in the NFL, I played in a lot of losing games,” he said. “If you leave everything on the field and you’ve done everything you can and there’s nothing left, then it’s a winning game regardless of what the score might be.”

Owens may be standing alone among Utah’s congressional delegation in challenging the Electoral College. New Rep. Blake Moore said he has not seen evidence of fraud “that would change the outcome of the election.” Rep. John Curtis also expressed doubts about the validity of any challenge. Rep. Chris Stewart has remained mum on the issue.

Trump received Utah’s six electoral votes in the election.