Utah Rep. John Curtis criticizes GOP challenge to electoral votes

Utah congressional delegation splits 4-2 on issue, so far.

Amid a brewing fight in Congress where scores of Republicans plan a long-shot challenge Wednesday to electoral votes to try to keep President Donald Trump in office, Utah Rep. John Curtis is making it crystal clear that he wants nothing to do with that effort.

“I plan to respect each state’s decision, certify the election, and continue to work with my colleagues on solutions for Utah,” Curtis tweeted on Tuesday morning.

Utah’s Republicans in Congress are divided on the planned challenge. Reps. Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart plan to join it. Curtis, Rep. Blake Moore and Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee have said directly or through spokespeople that they will not.

Curtis released a longer statement on Tuesday explaining his stand.

“I have faith in America’s election system and those who work tirelessly to ensure our elections are secure,” he wrote.

“The Constitution grants Congress the specific authority to count electoral votes, not debate the merits of each state’s election laws or the validity of the electors they choose to send — to do so would be to federalize the election process, taking fundamental rights away from states.”

He added, “I have consistently opposed when Democrats have made such attempts and I will not use one standard for my party and a different one for the other. Therefore, I plan to respect each state’s decision, certify the election, and continue to work with my colleagues on solutions for Utahns.”

He added that he is committed to improving the election process and security “without further federalizing our elections.”

The move to challenge electoral votes as Congress formally receives and counts them on Wednesday is seen to have little chance of success. Both the House and Senate would need to vote to exclude a state’s votes, and the House is controlled by Democrats. Several Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate also have said they would oppose the challenge.

Romney has been a leader in speaking out against that challenge.

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

He added, “Were Congress to actually reject state electors, partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost. Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents. … I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”

Moore also explained last week why he has no plans to join the challenge. “I would need to see very, very substantial evidence to challenge the Electoral College. … I have not seen that to the degree that would change the outcome of the election. So that’s where I am currently on that.”

Lee has said through a spokesman that he has no plans to join the electoral challenge, but Trump at a Georgia rally on Monday urged him to join it. A spokesman for Lee has said he will issue a statement on his stand this week.

“Mike Lee is here, but I’m a little angry at him,” Trump said at the rally.

On the other side, Stewart on Monday posted several tweets explaining why he will challenge the electoral votes.

“After serious thought and consideration, I will not vote to certify the election,” the Utah Republican tweeted. “I believe there are critical questions that need to be answered concerning our presidential election”.

He added, “Until we have resolved the issues surrounding voting irregularities, ballot integrity and security, and the implementation of state election laws, I cannot, in good conscience, uphold the oath I took to protect and defend our Constitution by voting to certify the election.”

Stewart did not list any specific instances of fraud. Courts have repeatedly and universally rejected lawsuits by Trump and his allies that alleged fraud for lack of evidence.

Last week, Owens used a football analogy to explain why he is joining the challenge.

“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.”

He added, “I plan to leave everything on the field” for Trump by helping to challenge electoral votes in states he believes Trump actually won. Owens added, “There’s no question in my mind that I think he won.”