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3 state delegates in D.C. accept vote of electors

2 take wait-and-see approach about challenge; Cotton mum by Frank E. Lockwood, Rachel Herzog | December 15, 2020 at 7:16 a.m.
Arkansas' congressional delegation is shown in these file photos. Top row, from left: U.S. Sens. John Boozman, and Tom Cotton and U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford. Bottom row, from left: U.S. Reps. French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack.

Three members of the all-Republican Arkansas congressional delegation said they will respect the will of the Electoral College, indicating they will not attempt to overturn the results when the votes are formally tallied Jan. 6.

Two members, 4th District U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs and 1st District U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro, are taking a wait-and-see approach.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Little Rock would not say whether he accepts the electors' decision and declined to comment for this story.

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray said Westerman, Crawford and Cotton should accept "the fact that it's finally over" in the presidential race.

"What else do these people need?" he asked. "It's time for them to be leaders and stop playing politics."

Monday was a day Democrats had long anticipated.

Electors gathered in state capitals across the country, including Little Rock, to formalize their pick for president.

President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, received 306 votes; President Donald Trump, the Republican incumbent, and his running mate, Vice President Mike Pence, had 232.

Lawmakers will have a final opportunity to challenge the outcome during a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.

After the votes had been tallied, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the electors should have the final say.

"I continue to support the electoral college as the means to select the President of the United States. Today, our system of democracy elected Joe Biden as President," he said in a written statement.

"A peaceful transition of power is our global calling card. Like many Arkansans I supported Donald Trump in this election. But now is the time to support the transition and reserve the fighting for important issues that will arise in the next 4 years," he said.

The contest, 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack said, is finished.

"The Electoral College votes are cast, and Joe Biden is the President-elect. Our nation must find the resolve to usher in the peaceful transfer of power and keep the focus on defeating the coronavirus and bringing back the American economy," the lawmaker from Rogers said in a written statement. "It is always my intent -- indeed, my duty -- to work with the new Administration on issues vital to American exceptionalism consistent with the views of Third District Arkansans."

Second District U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock also expressed a willingness to work with the soon-to-be 46th president to solve the nation's problems.

"President Trump said that he would live by the decision of the Electoral College, and today, the Electoral College certified Vice President Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. As I have already done, I recognize Vice President Biden as the president-elect," Hill said in a written statement. "In the House, I will work with the new administration to defeat COVID-19 and deliver commonsense solutions for central Arkansas's families, workers, and small businesses."

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers said the senator has no plans to challenge Monday's vote.

"There's a process in place. That process has been allowed to play out, including allowing for legal challenges. ... That process should continue to move forward," the spokesman, Patrick Creamer, said.

Boozman plans to meet with Biden's pick for agriculture secretary, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Creamer added.

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, portrayed Monday's outcome as appropriate.

"Biden won fair and square," he said in a text message. "[T]he Electoral College did its job today. That's how it works in America."

Last week, Westerman, Crawford and roughly 125 of their colleagues backed a Texas lawsuit disputing the validity of the vote in four pro-Biden states. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear the case, ruling that Texas lacked standing to bring the suit.

Dozens of other suits in state and federal courts were unsuccessful, with the Trump campaign and its allies repeatedly failing to convince judges of widespread election fraud.

In a written statement Monday evening, Crawford criticized the handling of the 2020 presidential election.

"As Joe Biden takes another big step towards Inauguration Day, we must commit as a nation never to have another election with such shoddy and haphazard procedures. Lax election security undermines public confidence in our institutions and ultimately threatens the stability of our nation," he said. "We must have faith that our elections are fair and free, with every legal vote, and only legal votes, counted. The American people do not have confidence in this year's tally, and it will make it harder to find bipartisan solutions to the challenges we face."

A spokesman said Crawford will continue to monitor court proceedings as he determines the best way to proceed.

Monday, Westerman suggested additional legal appeals may lie ahead.

"If courts find substantial evidence of election fraud in the next few weeks or if there are issues such as faithless electors, then members of congress have an option to contest the results," he said in a written statement. "But as a general rule I don't speculate on what I'll do until I have all the information."

There weren't any faithless electors Monday; none of the 538 disregarded their party's pick for president.

As expected, Arkansas' Republican slate of electors cast all six of the state's electoral votes for Trump and Pence.

"This is a very historic time," said Doyle Webb, a former state GOP chief who was tapped to serve as chairman of the state's electors.

The other five electors, sworn in by state Supreme Court Justice Rhonda K. Wood, were former Baxter County Republican Party Chairman Rod Soubers of Mountain Home, Little Rock pastor Iverson Jackson, Sebastian County Clerk Sharon Brooks, Washington County Judge Joseph Wood and Republican Party of Arkansas Deputy General Counsel George Ritter.

Wood and Ritter were alternates, filling in for Ed Bethune and J.D. McGehee, respectively. Bethune, an 84-year-old former congressman, withdrew from the proceedings because of covid-19 concerns.

McGehee stepped aside after receiving conflicting opinions about his eligibility, officials said.

Under Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution no "Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States shall be appointed an elector." McGehee, who serves as U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman's district director, is a federal employee.

McGehee made his decision "out of an abundance of caution," but attended the ceremony as a guest, Webb said.

County employment poses no constitutional concerns, so Brooks and Wood were free to participate.

"I am so very honored to be part of this process in history," Brooks said. "It's definitely history for me and my family."

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