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Politics & Government

N.Y. Rep. Stefanik Among GOP Lawmakers Aiming To Block Election Results

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tomorrow, Congress is expected to confirm Joe Biden's win in the presidential election. Some Republican lawmakers are supporting President Trump's effort to overturn that democratic election. The president has promoted conspiracy theories that have failed in dozens of courts. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik will nevertheless be voting to take the presidential choice out of the people's hands.

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ELISE STEFANIK: I do not take this action lightly. I am acting to protect our democratic process.

INSKEEP: She represents a rural district in northern New York. And North Country Public Radio's Emily Russell talked with voters there.

EMILY RUSSELL, BYLINE: George Briggs (ph) has a doughnut in one hand and a cup of coffee and the other. I find him outside a gas station in Elizabethtown, N.Y. It's a little mountain town of about a thousand people. When I ask him about Congresswoman Elise Stefanik's plan to object on Wednesday to Biden's victory, Briggs calls it an exercise in futility.

GEORGE BRIGGS: I think the election is - it's over. Just - we need to move on. Whether I'm happy about it or not is not the point.

RUSSELL: To be clear, Briggs is not happy. He's a Republican. He voted for Trump in November, and he believes at least some of what Trump is saying, that there was some fraud in the 2020 election.

BRIGGS: The irregularities, legal or otherwise, should be looked into.

RUSSELL: And is there is there an example you can give to me of widespread voter fraud?

BRIGGS: No, no, I can't. I don't think anybody's proved anything. But, usually, where there's some smoke, there's a little bit of fire.

RUSSELL: Briggs thinks those allegations of fraud should get settled in the courts, not in Congress. And that has been happening. Trump's team has filed dozens of lawsuits across the country. No court has upheld claims of widespread fraud or wrongdoing. Roger Phinney, a Republican who lives here in Elizabethtown, thinks Congresswoman Stefanik should respect those rulings. Several different layers of review say that it's a bona fide election result.

RUSSELL: Then he tells me he voted to reelect Stefanik this November, but he calls her decision to object to Biden's win ridiculous.

ROGER PHINNEY: You know, I don't think it's right now to be dragging this out a month later, still arguing because Mr. Trump is not happy the way it turned out.

RUSSELL: Phinney says up until about a month before the election, he planned to vote for Trump. He's always voted Republican. But he says after seeing the way Trump downplayed the pandemic that's left more than 350,000 Americans dead, he couldn't do it. Phinney cast his ballot for Biden. I cross the street and find Deborah Gale leaving the local grocery store. I ask her how she feels about Stefanik's plan to object to Biden's win.

DEBORAH GALE: It's heartbreaking.

RUSSELL: Gale didn't vote for Stefanik. She describes herself as a moderate Democrat. She says Stefanik's decision, though, surprised her.

GALE: I think she's a bright young woman. I think she has a good, long career in front of her. I think this is something that is going to hurt her in the long run.

RUSSELL: Tom Both thinks the impact of Stefanik's move will be much broader. Both is a former Republican official from a neighboring town.

TOM BOTH: I think it's damaging to our democracy, to our country. There's no evidence. And to go on and on this way, it's hurting us.

RUSSELL: Both is an independent now, but he says he was a Republican almost all his life. He turns 90 this year and says he'd like to see the party move away from Trump after the president leaves office.

BOTH: And I just hope there's a turnaround, and we listen to more people like Mitt Romney, some of the reasonable middle-of-the-road Republicans who want to bring the party back to what it once was.

RUSSELL: But Stefanik has moved in the opposite direction. She's one of Trump's most loyal supporters in the House, and that seems to have paid off. Stefanik won reelection here in November by nearly 18 points. For NPR News, I'm Emily Russell in Elizabethtown, N.Y.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.