U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin will join 10 other Republican senators and object to certifying Electoral College results during Wednesday’s joint session of Congress, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The effort, spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, marked yet another unprecedented move to challenge the results of November’s election and came in a joint statement issued Saturday by Cruz and the others.
Johnson, up for reelection in 2022, is the only senator joining the effort whose state’s voters backed President-elect Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. He is one of seven senators and four senators-elect joining in the effort.
Biden defeated Trump in the Electoral College by 306 to 232, a comfortable margin. The vote came a little more than a month after the Nov. 3 election, which the nation’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials have described as free of any voter fraud effort that would change the result.
Just last month, Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he regarded the election as legitimate and had no plans to object to the Electoral College votes.
“Something would have to surface that would call into question the legitimacy of the election,” he said then.
During an interview with the Journal Sentinel on Saturday, Johnson said allegations of voter fraud need to be investigated, a “large percentage of the population don’t view this election as legitimate” and over the past four years “the other side never acknowledged the legitimacy of President Trump.”
He said this was “an unsustainable state of affairs.”
“I’m not going to do what Democrats and many in the media want us to do, which is just shut up, sweep all of this under the rug and move on,” he said.
The signers of Saturday’s statement claimed the 2020 election “featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.”
They called on Congress to appoint an Electoral Commission to “conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states. Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.
“Accordingly, 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 that emergency 10-day audit is completed.”
The signers added: “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.”
Wisconsin is among several states where Trump and his allies have disputed the outcome. Biden won the state by more than 20,000 votes.
In the last month and a half, Trump and his allies have lost some 60 cases — including two that went to the U.S. Supreme Court — trying to overturn the election results. No evidence of significant voter fraud has surfaced, and several judges have been scathing in their criticism.
One election law expert said the move by the Republican senators won’t change the outcome of the election but added that it was “a direct attack on the election.”
“From my perspective, in a healthy democracy you have competitive elections each team really wants to win,” said Ohio State law professor Edward B. Foley. “But ultimately whichever side loses has to accept the reality of defeat and then fight the next time and hope to win the next time. This election has been unique in American history in terms of the unwillingness of the losing side to accept the reality of defeat.”
Democrats were swift to condemn Johnson for trying to block certification.
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2022, tweeted: “Ron Johnson will do whatever it takes — lie, cheat or steal — to deprive the people of Wisconsin of their vote. He is an embarrassment to our state and a traitor to our country. The will of the people will be upheld and Joe Biden will be our next Pres.”
Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who is weighing a 2022 Senate run, tweeted: “Ron Johnson is FOR- undermining the popular will of the people in a free & fair democratic election. Ron Johnson is AGAINST- much-needed financial relief for Wisconsin workers, families, & small businesses desperately struggling to make ends meet in the middle of a major crisis.”
Gov. Tony Evers tweeted that Johnson’s behavior was “disgraceful” and said: “The people of Wisconsin voted and made their voices heard and the results are clear — Joe Biden won Wisconsin’s Electoral College votes and he will be the next president of the United States. It’s irresponsible to claim otherwise.”
Without naming the other senators, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin charged in a tweet: “False and dishonest allegations about the integrity of the Wisconsin vote in a fair election Trump simply lost are attacks on the will of the people and our Democracy. They will fail just as Trump did because conspiracy theories don’t decide elections, the voters do.”
Even Republicans were frustrated.
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, blasted Johnson and the 10 others.
“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic. The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it,” Romney of Utah said in a statement. “… I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”
James Wigderson, editor of Right Wisconsin, tweeted Saturday that Johnson’s actions were making him “regret every word I’ve ever said or written in support of him. If there is a list of GOP officials who have disappointed me the most, he would be at the top. It’s a goddam horror show watching him now.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., whose state narrowly went for Biden, chastised Cruz and others for seeking to overturn the election results and said “the evidence is overwhelming that Joe Biden won this election.”
When Congress convenes Wednesday, the Electoral College ballots will be counted, a normally routine exercise overseen by the vice president.
If one member each from the House and Senate object to a state’s tally, the bodies then separately debate and vote on the challenge. Since Democrats control the House, and several Republican Senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have already acknowledged Biden’s victory, the effort will fail.
Johnson and Cruz were joined by Republican U.S. Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana and Senators-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
To contact U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, call (202) 224-5323, or go online at https://www.ronjohnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-the-senator