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On Monday, Mitch McConnell warned Senate Republicans not to challenge the election results. My thinking is that he is concerned that no matter which way Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler vote, it could negatively affect their standing in the Georgia run-off election (which as we know is critical to the Republicans holding the Senate).

Assuming that the Democrats are confident that a vote to nullify the election results could not pass, would it be strategic for them to request such a vote just to cause the impact that Mitch McConnell is trying to avoid?

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  • I'm intrigued about calling something opinion based in a politics Q&A site. A large portion of political questions (and answers) are pretty much just opinion. – Flydog57 Dec 17 '20 at 17:19
  • I really tried to word this as non-opinion based. What if I had worded it "what would happen if they did"? or "what are the pros and cons...", would either help? – Marc Bernier Dec 17 '20 at 19:57
  • You have two false premises in your question. (1) Kelly Loeffler will be participating in the joint session on January 6, when Congress certifies the election, but that participation will have no effect on the special election as voting in that election ends on January 5. (2) David Perdue will not be voting on January 6. His term ends on January 3, making his office temporarily vacant until the special election is fully counted, certified, and signed by the governor. This includes mail-in ballots received by the time polls close on January 5. This will not be accomplished overnight. – David Hammen Dec 18 '20 at 14:25
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My thinking is that he is concerned that no matter which way Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler vote, it could negatively affect their standing in the Georgia run-off election (which as we know is critical to the Republicans holding the Senate).

A motion to contest the election would have no impact on the Georgia runoff. McConnell was referring to the joint meeting of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate on January 6, 2021, which is the last step before the inauguration on January 20. This is one day after the Georgia runoff election.

This joint session is typically just a formality, taking less than half an hour to count all 538 electoral votes. There is a clause in the 1887 Electoral Count Act that allows members of Congress to contest a state's electoral vote. At least one Representative and at least one Senator has to object, in writing, to that state's vote. (The votes are tallied state-by-state, in alphabetical order.) If such an objection does happen, the joint session is suspended, with each house meeting separately to determine how to treat the objection. Each such separate meeting ends with a vote.

Forcing the Senate to take time out of what is normally a short formality would put the Senate in a deep bind. There are certainly some Republicans would would vote to reject the objection, probably a good number of them. The last time this happened was in 2005, where two Democrats objected to Ohio's vote. That one state could have swung the election had the objection gone through. The Senate voted 74 to 1 to reject the objection. The only Democrat to vote for the objection was Barbara Boxer, the Senator who raised the objection. (The House also voted to reject it, but not by that wide of a margin.)

Moreover, unlike 2005, where only one state needed to be nullified or flipped (Ohio was picked for that reason), Congress would need to nullify or flip at least three states that were reasonably close in the 2020 election. Finally, there is zero chance that the House would vote to sustain a Republican objection to any of the states that voted Democratic. It would be a lost cause.

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  • "A motion to contest the election would have no impact on the Georgia runoff." - The part of the question you've quoted says "affect their standing". No matter that the vote doesn't directly affect the Georgia run off, voting for throwing out the electoral results will irritate one sub-set of votes and enthuse another. Voting to keep the electoral results will irritate/enthuse a different set. Either course could affect who turns out and how they vote in the run-off elections. – Jontia Dec 17 '20 at 17:58
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    @Jontia How could Kelly Loeffler's vote on January 6 possibly affect her standing in the runoff election, which happens on January 5? Aside: David Perdue will almost certainly not be in the Senate on January 6. His current term ends on January 3. Unless the counting of the runoff is completed and certified overnight, Perdue's seat will be vacant on the sixth, and most likely for several days thereafter. – David Hammen Dec 17 '20 at 18:34
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    I'd missed the date issue and had assumed the contesting of electoral votes could happen immediately. Though presumably if a challenge were likely, i.e. a senator confirmed they would back It, the two senators in question would be asked about it repeatedly in the run up with the aforementioned consequences. – Jontia Dec 17 '20 at 19:17
  • @Jontia - Politicians tend to avoid answering questions that might negatively impact their standing in an election. They sometimes respond with a bland non-answer, other times respond with an answer to a different question, yet other times bloviate, and yet other answer with "no response" or "I didn't quite hear you. Gotta go!" – David Hammen Dec 18 '20 at 14:39

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