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Does Utah have ‘election deniers’ on the 2022 midterm ballot?

GOP Rep. Chris Stewart takes issue with FiveThirtyEight’s characterization of him

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Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, at GOP primary election event in South Jordan, Utah.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks at an event for candidates in the GOP primary election at the Awaken Event Center in South Jordan on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Utah has two “election deniers” on the 2022 midterm election ballot for Congress, according to a well-regarded website that offers analysis and predictions on politics.

FiveThirtyEight lists Republican Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens among 195 GOP candidates out of 529 running for office nationwide who have “fully denied” the legitimacy of the 2020 election in which Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden.

“These candidates either clearly stated that the election was stolen from Trump or took legal action to overturn the results, such as voting not to certify election results or joining lawsuits that sought to overturn the election,” according to the website.

Stewart and Owens objected to the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes on Jan. 6, 2021, the only members of Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation to do so. The two congressmen accept Biden as the president.

Stewart takes issue with FiveThirtyEight’s characterization of him.

Liam Anderson, a spokesman for the congressman, said Stewart voted against certifying only Pennsylvania because of issues surrounding voting irregularities and ballot integrity and security. Stewart, he said, does not believe that makes the election illegitimate, as Pennsylvania would not have changed the outcome.

Anderson said Stewart has publicly stated on many occasions that Biden is the duly elected and lawfully serving president.

“Any attempt to label Congressman Stewart as an ‘election denier’ is a lazy, disingenuous effort to further a political agenda. That’s immediately evident in the article in reference, which conveniently leaves out individuals such as Stacey Abrams and the president’s own press secretary,” Anderson said.

Owens’ office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, greets supporters at an event for candidates in the GOP primary election at the Awaken Event Center in South Jordan on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Candidates who support Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen will appear on ballots in nearly every state this fall, according to FiveThirtyEight, which focuses on opinion poll analysis, politics, economics and sports blogging.

The website says it drew on news reports, debate footage, campaign materials and social media and reached out to every Republican nominee for the House, Senate, governor, secretary of state and attorney general to determine their position on the 2020 election.

At the same time, FiveThirtyEight says Stewart and Owens are “very likely” to win reelection. The website used a model to simulate the election 40,000 times to see who would win their races against their Democratic opponent. Stewart and Owens each won 99 times out of 100.

Democrat Nick Mitchell is taking on Stewart, while Democrat Darlene McDonald is challenging Owens.

Utah Republican Reps. John Curtis and Blake Moore and GOP Sen. Mike Lee also face reelection this year.

Not all Republicans running this year embrace Trump’s election claims, according to the website. A total of 71 have “fully accepted” the results of the 2020 election while another 87 have “accepted with reservations,” meaning they think Biden won, but still raised concerns about the integrity of the election.

Curtis falls into the “fully accepted” category.

FiveThirtyEight cites his vote to certify the election results. It also references his November 2020 statement that Trump should be entitled to every opportunity to make his case and until a court determines wrongdoing, Biden should be acknowledged as the president-elect.

The website says Curtis is “very likely” to be reelected, putting his chance of winning over Democrat Glenn Wright at 99 in 100.

The website put Lee and Moore into the “accepted with reservations” group.

For Lee, FiveThirtyEight points to his comments on C-SPAN in June about the discredited documentary film “2000 Mules,” which attempts to make the case that the presidential election was stolen. Lee said he saw the movie and that it raises “significant” questions about what might have happened in the election.

“It’s important to point out there’s a difference between the possibility that some cheating may have occurred and whether or not he’s the legitimate president,” Lee said of Biden. “The president of the United States is chosen by the Electoral College. The opening and the counting of the Electoral College votes resulted in a clear victory for Joe Biden. But that doesn’t mean that things didn’t happen along the way.”

Lee exchanged dozens of text messages with then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows exploring avenues to keep Trump in office. He said earlier this year his only goal was to figure out Congress’ role in a presidential election and sort through theories the Trump campaign pursued to challenge the outcome.

Lee said he concluded Congress could only open and count states’ electoral votes, and he voted to certify the results.

FiveThirtyEight says Lee is “clearly favored” to win in November and puts his chances against independent Evan McMullin at 97 in 100. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll in July showed Lee with a five-point lead over McMullin.

Regarding Moore, FiveThirtyEight pointed to his Jan. 7, 2021, statement on the electoral college vote certification.

In the statement, he said he was concerned that many states rushed to implement mail-in balloting systems during the pandemic, noting it took Utah several years to ensure it had a secure and efficient election process to address the integrity of mail-in ballots.

Moore also said he could not in good conscience endorse federal intervention in state-certified elections and the Constitution states Congress’ duty is to count electoral votes sent by the states. He voted to certify states’ electoral votes.

FiveThirtyEight says Moore’s chance of winning is 99 in 100 and he is “very likely” to beat Democrat Rick Jones in November.

The FiveThirtyStory story is part of the ABC News series ”Democracy in Peril,” which examines the inflection point the country finds itself in after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and ahead of the 2022 election.