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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. John Curtis said that he plans to vote to certify presidential election results Wednesday, arguing that a plan to object the results in certain states goes beyond the scope of congressional duty.
Curtis issued a statement on the matter a day before the Senate and House of Representatives will meet in Washington to fulfill the final process of the presidential election. President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, won the election with a 306-232 edge in the electoral college and about a 7 million-vote edge in the popular vote over President Donald Trump, who is a Republican.
The bicameral meeting is always held two weeks before the Jan. 20 Inauguration Day.
The meeting is often viewed as an uneventful formality but about a dozen Republican senators and over 100 Republican representatives have said they plan to object to the election results Wednesday and call for an emergency review of votes in swing states where Trump has alleged voter fraud. Utah Reps. Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart are among the group planning to object.
State and federal election officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence to support Trump's claims of widespread fraud. Multiple courts throughout the country have also rejected lawsuits brought by Trump supporters advancing those claims.
Curtis, who previously stated he planned to listen to objections before voting, said Tuesday that he will continue to fulfill his responsibility to "speak on behalf of the election process in Utah and listen to any objection raised by my fellow lawmakers concerning their state."
I've spent most of today talking with constituents and colleagues about the process tomorrow to certify the #ElectoralCollege results. Here's why I won't be objecting. #utpolpic.twitter.com/st0ImdU0Gm— Rep. John Curtis (@RepJohnCurtis) January 5, 2021
He added, however, that objections over how states voted and conducted their election processes goes beyond the scope of the congressional role in the presidential election process. That's why Curtis plans to vote to respect every state's election results and certify Biden's win.
"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," his statement read, in part.
In the statement, Curtis wrote that he "consistently opposed" moves by Democrats. It wasn't clear what it was in reference but the 2016 election, which Trump won, ended up receiving a review of Russian interference. The House of Representatives, which the Democratic Party has held majority of since the 2018 election, also led the impeachment of Trump in 2019 on counts of abuse of power and obstructing Congress in relation to communication with Ukraine earlier that year. Trump remained in office after the Senate acquitted him on the charges.
Curtis continued that he does "not use one standard for my party and a different one for the other" and that he will instead move on from the election and "work with my colleagues on solutions for Utahns."
"As I have said many times before: I have faith in America's election system and those who work tirelessly to ensure our elections are secure," he concluded. "That's not to say there isn't work to do. Americans deserve an election process that leaves no question of integrity and I am committed to supporting our state leaders and working with my colleagues to ensure election security, without further federalizing our elections."
Taking constituent calls here in DC-- happy to chat about my decision not to object to the electoral college count tomorrow or any other issues that are important to you. #utpol— Rep. John Curtis (@RepJohnCurtis) January 5, 2021
☎️: (202) 225-7751 pic.twitter.com/5Zc00e1aZ2
Utah leaders appear split on certification
It's clear Utah's six members of the House of Representatives or Senate are split over how they will vote during Wednesday's presidential election certification.
Stewart on Monday said he will join the group of Republican lawmakers planning to challenge results and spark an emergency review of the process. In an interview with KSL NewsRadio's "Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry," he argued that there was evidence of fraud and that courts tossed out cases on technical issues.
He said he supported a review so that there wasn't a "cloud hanging over" Biden's victory.
"(W)e're just asking for the benefit of everyone, Republican, Democrat, Biden supporters, Trump supporters — for the benefit of everyone," Stewart said on the radio program. "Let's make sure we have answered these questions to the very best of our ability."
Owens said last week that the presidential election results didn't "make sense," which is why he would challenge the results.
While Owens and Stewart said they will object, Sen. Mitt Romney blasted the idea of challenging results in a scathing rebuke over the weekend. The senator and 2012 Republican presidential candidate called it an "egregious ploy" that "dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic."
Rep. Blake Moore also appeared on "Live Mic" and said he planned to listen to objections Wednesday and have an "objective look" at the arguments before making a decision. He added he didn't expect to include any objections of his own.
He, who like Owens was sworn in for the first time over the weekend, said there were a lot of conversations about the upcoming meeting happening in Washington.
"We're open to input and we've been collecting a lot of input. I didn't expect … Day 1, essentially, to have such a looming vote," Moore said on Monday. "The gravity of that is palpable."
Sen. Mike Lee is the only Utah member of either the House or Senate that hasn't publicly stated how he plans to handle Wednesday's bicameral certification process. KSL.com reached out to Lee's Office for comment Tuesday but was told he was unavailable.
Lee has appeared at rallies in support of Trump's reelection bid even outside of Utah but there are signs that he will not be among the Republican objectors on the issue. The Washington Post reported that Lee penned a letter to colleagues in which he wrote "there is no authority for Congress to make value judgments in the abstract regarding any state's election laws or the manner in which they have been implemented."
Trump gave a stump speech Monday for a pair of Republican candidates ahead of Tuesday's Senate runoff election in Georgia. During the speech, the president said Lee was at the rally but he was "a little angry at him" as he looked for him in the crowd.
"I'm a little angry at you today, but that's all right," Trump said, as he apparently located Lee in the crowd.
The Washington Post on Tuesday also included Lee on its list of 22 Republican Senators that plan to support electoral results as submitted by the states, along with Romney. The list also includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The post listed 13 Republican senators in favor and 16 with "unclear or no answer" ahead of Wednesday's session.