Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Sunday responded to criticism over his plan to challenge the electoral college results on Jan. 6 unless an emergency 10-day audit to assess election fraud allegations takes place.
Cruz and 10 other senators announced their intention to challenge Electoral College votes from contested states over concerns that the 2020 election “featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations, and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.”
The senator from the Lone Star State said in a recent interview that after the senators made the announcement, Democrats began urging that Cruz “should be arrested and tried for the crimes of sedition and treason.”
“Well, listen, I think everyone needs to calm down. I think we need to tone down the rhetoric,” Cruz told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. “This is already a volatile situation. It’s like a tinderbox and throwing lit matches into it.”
He said the “hyperbole” and “angry language” used to respond to his statement was “not helpful” and that it was Congress’s responsibility to look at the allegations in order to restore trust in the democratic processes for the future.
Cruz explained that the rationale for forming an electoral commission to perform an emergency audit was to balance concerns from both sides. He said that he believes Congress should not simply dismiss and ignore allegations of voter fraud but also that election results should not be set aside because a lawmaker’s preferred candidate did not prevail.
He said his proposal for an electoral commission was a third option that is moored in the law and supported by historical precedents.
He pointed to the 1876 presidential election between Republican nominee Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat nominee Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. During that race, three states—Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina—as well as one electoral vote from Oregon remained in dispute. The three contested states, which were disputed due to voter fraud allegations and election irregularities, had submitted two sets of electoral ballots.
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As a compromise, Congress in 1877 established a bipartisan electoral commission made up of five House members, five Senators, and five Supreme Court justices to hear the claims and determine how the unassigned electoral votes should be awarded.
“They considered evidence, they examined the ballots, and they made a determination based upon what the disputed ballots [are] and what the outcome should be,” Cruz said.
“What I’m arguing for is Congress ought to do the same thing.”
The Texas senator said that he believes the Supreme Court is the “better forum” to hear voter fraud claims but because the current panel had rejected to hear some of the election disputes that have reached its doors, it is now Congress’s responsibility to look at the issues.
“We have an independent responsibility to the Constitution. We have an independent obligation to the rule of law,” he said.
The plan by the group of senators comes after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and dozens of Republican House members said they would challenge the electoral votes during the joint congressional session on Jan. 6, when votes are formally counted. During that session, Congress members can object to any vote.
Objections during the joint session must be made in writing by at least one House member and one senator. If the objection for any state meets this requirement, the joint session pauses and each house withdraws to its own chamber to debate the question for a maximum of two hours. The House and the Senate then vote separately to accept or reject the objection, which requires a majority vote from both chambers to pass.
If both candidates receive less than 270 electoral votes on Jan. 6, then a contingent election is triggered in which each state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives casts one en bloc vote to determine the president, while the vice president is decided by a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Democrats and several Republican senators have opposed the plans to challenge the electoral college results, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).