‘Election deniers’ are still running Congress three years after January 6

Officials who supported legal battles and promoted conspiracy theories represent voters in 36 states

Alex Woodward
Friday 05 January 2024 17:34 GMT
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Three years after a violent breach of the US Capitol that stopped the certification of millions of Americans’ votes, nearly one-third of its elected members have denied the election’s outcome, including 127 sitting members of Congress who refused to certify the 2020 results.

Those members – who supported legal battles to reverse results, voted against them, or promoted election conspiracy theories – represent voters in 36 states.

They include 19 Senators and 152 members of the House of Representatives, including its Republican speaker, labelled “the most powerful election denier in Washington.”

The latest analysis from nonpartisan democracy advocacy group States United Action, one year before a joint session of Congress will reconvene to certify this year’s election, arrives before the anniversary of the January 6 attack, when a mob fuelled by Donald Trump stormed the halls of Congress.

“For many voters, the most important office on their ballot this year isn’t president – it’s Congress. That’s because when it comes to choosing the people who will certify the election, every single state is in play,” according to a statement from States United CEO Joanna Lydgate, a former chief deputy Attorney General of Massachusetts.

“We’ve already seen what it looks like when members of Congress try to overturn the results, and the election denial movement continues to run rampant through the halls of the Capitol,” she said.

Among them is newly installed House Speaker Mike Johnson, who spearheaded a spurious lawsuit in December 2020 disputing election results in four states won by President Joe Biden. More than 100 members signed on to the challenge, which was rejected by the US Supreme Court.

In 2022, the so-called “election denialism” movement failed to gain new ground in critical midterm elections for statewide races that oversee election administration, though 25 “election deniers” in at least 19 states currently hold a statewide office with election oversight, States United Action found.

Louisiana’s newly elected governor Jeff Landry led a coalition of Republican attorneys general to join the Texas-based lawsuit to overturn Mr Biden’s victories in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2020.

Since 2020, an election denier has run for at least one of the top three statewide offices that oversee elections in at least 42 states, according to a separate analysis from States United Action.

Meanwhile, Republican-led legislation to change the rules of election administration continues to surface in state legislatures across the country, what GOP officials have labelled as efforts to protect “election integrity” after elevating false claims that the 2020 election didn’t have any.

That corrosive narrative, which has formed the basis of Mr Trump’s campaign, has also shaped how voters view that election’s outcome.

More than a third of Americans falsely believe Mr Biden was illegitimately elected, a figure that has risen over the last two years. In December 2021, 69 per cent of Americans said Mr Biden was legitimately elected, according to recent polling from The Washington Post-University of Maryland. Today, that figure stands at 62 per cent. Thirty-one per cent of Republican voters accept Mr Biden’s victory as legitimate – compared with 39 per cent in 2021.

Fifty-five per cent of Americans see the Capitol attack as “an attack on democracy that should never be forgotten” – but fewer than a quarter of Republicans and only 17 per cent of Trump voters agree, according to the survey.

Polling from States United Action found that 42 per cent of Americans are less likely to re-elect a member of Congress who refused to certify 2020 results, nearly twice as high than the share of Americans would be more likely.

“The data makes it clear: If members of Congress won’t do their jobs and follow the will of the people, voters don’t want to re-elect them,” according to a statement from Thania Sanchez, States United Action’s senior vice president of research and policy development.

“If your member of Congress won’t respect your vote, how do you know they’ll respect your concerns as a constituent?” she said.

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