Minnesota Republicans divided over certifying presidential election results 

By: - January 7, 2021 1:59 pm

Michelle Fischbach objected to the certification of Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electors after a day of rioting on Capitol hill Wednesday. Courtesy photo.

Once the violent pro-Trump mob was cleared from the nation’s Capitol Wednesday, Minnesota’s Republican members of Congress ended up divided over whether to certify Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electors.

U.S. Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Michelle Fischbach objected to the certification, while Reps. Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber voted to accept them, as lawmakers worked deep into the night to approve the the Electoral College results showing Joe Biden won the presidential election.

By Thursday morning, 121 House Republicans had voted to decertify Arizona’s electors and 138 House Republicans voted to decertify Pennsylvania’s electors. Six senators objected to Arizona’s electors and seven to Pennsylvania’s. 

Fischbach worries about ‘irregularities’

Fischbach released a statement saying she objected to certifying the electors because the election was “shrouded in allegations of irregularities and fraud too voluminous to ignore” and called for an investigation.

In dozens of lawsuits around the country, however, Trump’s claims were rejected as untrue or not significant enough to affect the outcome. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities. 

Fischbach said the right to vote is perhaps the most fundamental right of Americans, and “we must do all we can to protect that franchise.”

By decertifying the results, however, Fischbach would be disenfranchising the votes of the citizens of Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Emmer says Congress can’t discard electors

Emmer said Article 2 of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of Congress and the states when certifying the results of the Electoral College. Congress doesn’t have the authority to discard a slate of electors certified by a state’s legislature, he argued. 

Doing so would set a precedent that undermines the state-based system of elections that defines the republic, he said. Competing slates of electors sent to Congress by a Legislature would allow Congress to be the arbiter. As he noted in a statement, no states sent separate slates. 

Emmer acknowledged that millions of Americans don’t trust the results of this election, and said he supports an investigation into  allegations of voter fraud and abuse.

“I also share the concerns of the many who have unanswered questions about the constitutional nature of the changes made to the election systems in several states,” he said.

Hagedorn: States didn’t have the right to change election laws

Hagedorn said he objected to counting Arizona and Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes due to concerns about the constitutionality of states making “wholesale changes” to election laws without the consent of their state legislatures.  

Those changes were made to give people more ways to vote aside from going to the polls, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“In the closing months of the presidential race, partisan government officials and courts, often at the behest of organized liberal activists, amended or suspended election laws and voting procedures in several key states, and did so without approval from state legislatures,” he said in a press statement. 

He said his votes were intended to encourage state legislatures to “reclaim their authority and restore election integrity.”

Hagedorn added his name in December to an amicus brief filed in a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that sought to overturn results in battleground states. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected it. 

He said he wants to see Congress create a commission to do a “forensic audit of the 2020 presidential election,” though it’s not clear what that means. Recounts in Georgia and Wisconsin confirmed Biden was the winner. 

Stauber: Constitution gives Congress limited role

Stauber said while he “fiercely supported” Trump’s reelection — standing with him in Duluth, Bemidji, Mankato and the Twin Cities — and shares many constituents’ disappointment in and concerns about the election, the Constitution permits only a limited role for Congress in the presidential election process. That role is to count the electors submitted by the states, not to decide which electors the states should have sent, he said.

“I am and always have been a firm believer in states’ rights and the 10th Amendment,” Stauber said in a press release. “Overturning the results of the Electoral College would be an overstep of Congress’ limited role and would revoke power from where it should be derived — you, the people, and the states. Further, it would set a dangerous precedent, in which attacks on the Electoral College will be emboldened while efforts to eliminate it altogether are strengthened.”

He said he didn’t take the decision lightly. 

“Americans — no matter who they voted for — deserve to have confidence in their electoral system and it is troubling that so many have lost faith in our election process,” Stauber said. (Trump has spent months sowing doubt in the results, even though there’s been no credible challenge to the results.)

Local GOP takes

Some Republican members of the Minnesota House — including Reps. Mary Franson, Eric Lucero, Glenn Gruenhagen, Steve Drazkowski and Susan Akland — appeared at a rally in St. Paul Wednesday to protest the certification. 

Other Minnesota Republicans were critical of the whole effort, such as state Rep. Pat Garofalo, who publicly agreed with U.S. Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida. They said some lawmakers were misled into believing objections to certification could force an audit of the election, delaying the transition of power. They also criticized some Republicans and interest groups that raised money off the fracas. “They knew the truth but thought it was a great way to get attention and raise money,” Rubio tweeted.

Other Republicans — such as Andy Aplikowski, former political director of the Minnesota Republican Party — spent weeks claiming election fraud, but now say Trump should resign.

“I’m a lifelong Republican and I’m calling for the immediate resignation of [President Donald Trump,” Aplikowski tweeted. “Get the f*** out of the White House, Republican Party, and Washington and take your anarchist rioters with you.”

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.