COLUMBUS, Ohio - Congress meets today to count states' electoral votes, and possibly never before has this ceremonial process received so much attention.
A dozen Republican senators and 140 House members, including a few from Ohio, plan to challenge President Donald Trump's loss in key battleground states. While the effort is not unprecedented, University of Dayton political-science lecturer Dan Birdsong contended that its scale is noteworthy.
"It kind of questions the motivation behind these individual legislators, because it doesn't look like it can change the outcome. It looks more like political theater," he said. "If it clearly was to support democracy, it wouldn't be so partisan."
The challenge would have to pass in both the U.S. House and Senate. While Birdsong said he believes instances of fraud and irregularities did occur, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has said he won't support the challenge. Among Ohio's Republican House members, Jim Jordan of Champaign County and Bob Gibbs of Holmes County have said they'll challenge the vote count. Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River has said he'll oppose; and the remaining seven have not made an official declaration.
Vice President Mike Pence also is facing pressure to take a "last stand" on Trump's behalf and reject some states' results. However, Birdsong said that isn't something Pence can do as Senate president.
"The most agreed-upon analysis is that the role of vice president is to open up the certified votes from the various states, and then they're to be counted - that he doesn't have independence in selecting some over the others," Birdsong said. "That's not part of his power in this process."
In order for the country to heal moving forward, Birdsong said he believes Americans will need to better understand that equality, liberty and other common political values don't look the same for all people.
"In political discussions, the fear of having the discussion is, in part, one of the problems that we're having," he said. "We're not even engaging in a conversation about what a free and fair election should look like with someone who doesn't necessarily agree, someone from the opposing party."
Today's joint session of Congress is to begin at 1 p.m. EST.