SALT LAKE CITY — Congress could be in for a long, contentious day on Wednesday.

A dozen Republican senators and up to 100 House Republicans — which now include Utah Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens — are poised to challenge the Electoral College vote when lawmakers convene in a joint session to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 win.

Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the session where the envelopes from each state and the District of Columbia will be opened alphabetically and the votes tallied. If at least one member of each house objects in writing to a state’s votes, senators will file out of the House chamber so the bodies can debate the issue separately for two hours. The process would be repeated for each state for which a challenge is raised.

The objections are anticipated to start with Arizona, and could continue to other swing states, including Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where President Donald Trump lost.

Both the Senate and the House must vote to sustain the objection for it to matter, and the Democratic-led House is unlikely to go along with any objections to votes for Biden. Otherwise, the votes get counted as certified by the states.

“There may be some twists and turns that we’re not anticipating right now,” said Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for Study of Democracy and Elections at Brigham Young University.

But, he said, there’s not a majority in either chamber to sustain those objections, so this could be “just a very long and divisive and frustrating” process for all concerned.

Stewart announced Monday that he will not vote to certify the election.

“After serious thought and consideration, I will not vote to certify the election. I believe there are critical questions that need to be answered concerning our Presidential election,” he posted on Twitter.

“Until we have resolved the issues surrounding voting irregularities, ballot integrity and security, and the implementation of state election laws, I can not, in good conscience, uphold the oath I took to protect and defend our constitution by voting to certify the election.”

In response to Stewart’s comments, Karpowitz said one cannot simultaneously support the Constitution or the rule of law and seek to undermine the duly certified results of a presidential election for partisan reasons.

There is no reliable evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the results, he said. Those issues have been litigated, and the president lost repeatedly.

“There is simply no merit to the notion that there are critical questions that have been unaddressed or that still need to be answered,” Karpowitz said.

Stewart said Trump, Biden and voters deserve to know the election results are accurate.

“But if anyone says that there’s no evidence, that’s just absolute nonsense. There’s plenty of evidence about this. The question is, is there enough evidence to overturn the election,” he said Monday on KSL Newsradio’s “Live Mic.”

Courts decided lawsuits contesting the election on “technical” issues, not on a body of evidence, Stewart said. He said there are dozens of affidavits attesting to irregularities and state legislatures in Pennsylvania and Georgia held hours of hearings.

Stewart said he supports a 10-day audit to ensure the voters “that we’ve had the right outcome here. That’s not an assault on democracy some have concluded,” he said.

Still, he conceded the challenge in Congress is “extraordinarily unlikely” to overturn election.

Owens, who was sworn in Sunday, indicated last week that he would challenge the results, in part because the outcome “doesn’t make sense to me anecdotally or factually.”

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Utah GOP Reps. John Curtis and Blake Moore both said they will carry out their constitutional duty to listen to both sides of the debate, then vote on the merits of any objection.

Moore, who was sworn in Sunday, said the gravity of what’s going to happen Wednesday is palpable.

“I will have an objective look at this,” he said on “Live Mic.”

Despite Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, state officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence of fraud or other problems that would change the outcome. The states have certified their results as fair and valid. Of the more than 50 lawsuits the president and his allies have filed challenging election results, nearly all have been dismissed or dropped. Trump also lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Karpowitiz said Trump is engaging in conspiracy theories that are serving to agitate his base in a mistaken belief that somehow the election outcome will change.

“He’s made his career creating his own reality,” Karpowitz said.

The president has intensified his effort to hang on to the White House, including through a phone call to Georgia officials on Saturday that was disclosed Sunday. In the call, Trump can be heard pressuring the Georgia secretary of state to “find” him more votes.

Curtis criticized the move in a tweet on Monday.

“No matter how you voted in the presidential election, we should all be disappointed with attempts to pressure Georgia officials to “find” votes. Under Republican leadership, the GA presidential results have gone through multiple recounts and legal challenges. It is what it is,” he wrote.

Karpowitz called Trump’s phone call “shocking.”

“It’s shocking to hear such a transparent attempt to overturn an election,” he said. “It is deeply undemocratic and at odds with the system of government that we have in the United States.”

Trump’s efforts do nothing more than sow discord and distrust and wreak havoc with the Republican Party and upset the peaceful transfer of power and the rule of law, he said.

“To trifle with those things is really courting deeper problems and courting disaster overall,” Karpowitz said. “It’s playing with fire.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has been outspoken in his condemnation of efforts to overturn the election.

”The 2020 election is over,” he said a statement Sunday from a bipartisan group of 10 senators, including fellow Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

The senators wrote that further attempts to cast doubt on the election are “contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results.”

The statement was issued before Trump’s phone call with Georgia officials was disclosed.

In a separate statement Sunday, Romney said, “The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our democratic republic.”

The president went after members of his party who are pushing back against his baseless claims of voter fraud Monday.

“The “Surrender Caucus” within the Republican Party will go down in infamy as weak and ineffective “guardians” of our Nation, who were willing to accept the certification of fraudulent presidential numbers!” he tweeted. Twitter flagged the post as “disputed.”

It appears that Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a staunch Trump supporter, isn’t on board with efforts to challenge the election results.

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The Washington Post reported Sunday that in a letter shared among colleagues, Lee wrote, “With respect to presidential elections, there is no authority for Congress to make value judgments in the abstract regarding any state’s election laws or the manner in which they have been implemented.”

The centrist United Utah Party launched a petition Monday calling on Lee to vote to certify Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. 

“The people of Utah need to know that Sen. Lee will not join this anti-democratic movement but will instead uphold those democratic principles that have made our republic enduring and strong,” said Hillary Stirling, party chairwoman.

Contributing: Associated Press

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