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Democrats made objections to election results during election certifications in 2001, 2005 and 2017.
In all three of those years, the losing candidate had already conceded the race.
In 2021, 147 Republicans objected to the results, and Trump was actively trying to stay in office.
Rep. Lee Zeldin was one of 147 Republicans who voted against certifying election results after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He brought up some lesser-known history in a recent news conference.
In the past few decades, there have been Democratic objections to counting a state’s electors in the House of Representatives every time a Republican was elected president, said Zeldin, who is campaigning to unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul.
"Do you know that every Jan. 6, every four years, whenever any Republican has been elected president over the course of the last few decades, same date, same time, same place, we have had Democrats on the floor of the House of Representatives, objecting and debating?" Zeldin said Sept. 6. "All sorts of different objections, that’s been our process."
Zeldin voted against certifying the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, which showed that Joseph R. Biden beat Donald J. Trump. He is among the 139 House members and eight senators who voted against certifying results from one or two states. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election in any state.
We wondered if Zeldin’s claim about Democrats’ past objections to certifying election results is correct.
Federal law calls for the U.S. Congress to meet at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 following the meeting of electors to certify the election results. The electoral votes of each state are read in alphabetical order. During that meeting, the president of the Senate "shall call for objections, if any." Each objection must be made in writing, with the signature of at least one member of the House and one senator.
Attempts to object to election results have been made in some fashion by House Democrats in 2001, 2005, and 2017, following the successful campaigns of George W. Bush and Trump, both Republicans. One senator supported the objection in 2005, though the Senate and the House ultimately did not uphold that objection.
Unlike Republican objections in 2021, Democratic objections in the 2000s happened after the losing candidate had conceded. In 2021, Trump did not concede until the evening of Jan. 7, and he had been plotting to remain in the White House. A group of House Republicans had met with Trump in the Oval Office in December 2020 to plan for Jan. 6, 2021, and to discuss how Trump could stay in office.
In prior years, "the losing candidate didn’t support any of these objections," said Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has testified about reforming the Electoral Count Act and was active in efforts to impeach Trump. "Here, Trump drove those objections."
In 2001, in the aftermath of a contested ballot counting process in Florida, House members said black voters in that state had been disenfranchised. No senator joined in the objections, and Vice President Al Gore - who lost the presidential election - gaveled them down.
In 2005, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, along with 30 other House members, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., objected to the Ohio electoral votes. The joint session of Congress paused while each chamber considered the objection, according to the Congressional Research Service. The House and the Senate each rejected the objection, and when the joint session resumed, Ohio’s electoral votes were counted. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who gave a concession speech on Nov. 3, 2004, said he would not take part in the protest.
In 2017, Biden gaveled down House Democrats who objected to Trump’s win because they did not have support from a senator.
The history of Democrats objecting to Republican presidential winners was documented by Derek T. Muller, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, in an essay published Jan. 6, 2021, in The New York Times.
"Then as now, each member of Congress was within his or her rights to make an objection," Muller wrote. "But the objections were naïve at best, shameless at worst. Either way, the readiness of members of Congress to disenfranchise millions of Americans was disconcerting."
Muller told PolitiFact that legally speaking, there was no difference between Democratic objections in prior years and Republican objections in 2021, though circumstances around those votes were different.
In June, PolitiFact ruled Mostly True on the House Republican Conference tweet that House Jan. 6 Committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., voted to object to Ohio’s slate in 2005, when the electoral votes from the 2004 election were officially counted in a joint session of Congress.
Zeldin said House Democrats have objected to certifying election results after every election in the last few decades when Republicans have won.
Some Democrats filed objections in 2001, 2005, and in 2017, following elections that Republicans won. But the circumstances were different from those in 2021. In the earlier years, the losing candidate had already conceded. After the 2020 election, Trump was trying to overturn the election, and he had met with some House Republicans to further that goal. In the previous years, not even the losing candidates were seeking to overturn the results. The objections were more symbolic than the 2021 effort to block the election results. In 2021, the objections could have overturned the presidential election.
Because the statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, we rate this Mostly True.
Facebook, live video, Lee Zeldin, Sept. 6, 2022. Accessed Sept. 7, 2022.
Email interview, Derek T. Muller, Ben V. Willie Professor in Excellence & Professor of Law, University of Iowa College of Law, Sept. 13, 2022.
Email interview, John R. Vile, Ph.D., professor of political science and dean of the University Honors College, Middle Tennessee State University, Sept. 13, 2022.
Phone interview, Elaine C. Kamarck, founding director, Center for Effective Government Studies and senior fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution, Sept. 14, 2022.
Phone interview, Norman Eisen, senior fellow, governance studies, Brookings Institution, Sept. 15, 2022.
The New York Times, "Democrats Have Been Shameless About Your Presidential Vote Too," Jan. 6, 2021. Accessed Sept. 12, 2022.
CNN, "Democrats challenge Ohio electoral votes," Jan. 6, 2005. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
Politico, "House Republicans meet with Trump to discuss overturning election results," Dec. 21, 2020. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
Congressional Research Service, "Counting Electoral Votes: An Overview of Procedures at the Joint Session, Including Objections by Members of Congress," Nov. 15, 2016. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
The New York Times, "Fact-Checking the Congressional Debate on Ratifying the Election Results," Jan. 6, 2021. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
The Dispatch, "Fact-Check: Did Democrats Object the Last Three Times a Republican Won the White House?," Jan. 5, 2021. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
3 U.S. Code § 15 - Counting electoral votes in Congress, via Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
The New York Times, "Over Some Objections, Congress Certifies Electoral Vote," Jan. 7, 2001. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
CNN, "11 times VP Biden was interrupted during Trump’s electoral vote certification," Jan. 6, 2017. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
The Washington Post, "Committee: Rep. Harris attended White House meeting to plan for Jan. 6," July 13, 2022. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
The New York Times, "The 147 Republicans Who Voted to Overturn Election Results," Jan. 7, 2021. Accessed Sept. 16, 2022.
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking whether Jan. 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson objected to the 2004 election," June 10, 2022. Accessed Sept. 16, 2022.
Congressional Record, House of Representatives, Jan. 6, 2001. Accessed Sept. 16, 2022.
Congressional Record, "COUNTING ELECTORAL VOTES--JOINT SESSION OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE HELD PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 2; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 4," Jan. 6, 2017. Accessed Sept. 16, 2022.
Congressional Record, "COUNTING ELECTORAL VOTES--JOINT SESSION OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE HELD PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 1," Jan. 6, 2005. Accessed Sept. 16, 2022.
Reuters, "Fact check: Donald Trump concession video not a ‘confirmed deepfake,’" Jan. 11, 2021. Accessed Sept. 16, 2022.
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