OMAHA — Wednesday’s riot in the U.S. Capitol didn’t shake Rep. Adrian Smith’s belief that he was right to join other Republicans who objected to Electoral College votes from several states that backed Democrat Joe Biden for president.
Nebraska’s two senators and its two other House members, all Republicans, sided with the overwhelming majority in Congress to reject those objections. The votes came hours after a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, seeking to overturn Biden’s election.
But Smith, who represents much of rural Nebraska, said his objective was not to make Trump the winner. Instead, he said, he wanted to publicly air longstanding concerns about elections, including worries that states have gone too far in relaxing rules for mail-in voting and verifying signatures.
“It goes back to even before these past two presidential elections,” said Smith, who tried to pass legislation requiring voter identification while in the Nebraska Legislature. “I’ve seen an attempt to relax voter registration standards that I think is dangerous to our republic.”
Some of them question whether they should vote at all, fearing that their votes will be diluted by voters in states with different rules, Smith said.
“I don’t think there’s a full appreciation for how much that turns so many of the American people off to the entire process,” he said.
Voting rights advocates nationally and in Nebraska have argued that the additional restrictions that Smith and other Republicans say are needed to make voting more secure would make voting harder for poor people and people of color.
The 2020 election saw record turnout in many states, partly because of the hotly contested presidential race and partly because states encouraged people to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. Republican objections centered on the way certain states that voted for Biden made it easier to vote by mail.
Smith said he was disturbed by the photographs he saw of what happened in the Capitol, including one of a rioter sitting in the presiding officer’s chair in the Senate chamber.
“It’s not just sad,” he said. “It should concern everyone."
Smith, who supported Trump in the election, would not answer whether he thought Biden won. He said he respects the electoral process that ended at 3:40 a.m. Thursday Washington time.
“It’s time to move forward,” he said.
FACTS ABOUT THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE