WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Republican Senator Josh Hawley has pledged to challenge Democrat President-elect Joe Biden's victory when Congress convenes to officially tally the electoral votes, which could trigger a lengthy debate in the Senate but has virtually no chance of overturning the results.
Mr Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri who was elected in 2018, said in a statement on Wednesday (Dec 30) that "some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws", and that "at the very least, Congress should investigate".
Mr Hawley did not provide any evidence for his claims.
A number of Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives have said they plan to object to the election results, but Mr Hawley is the first US senator to do so.
Mr Biden beat President Donald Trump by a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College.
Mr Trump has refused to concede defeat and has repeatedly falsely claimed that the election was tainted by widespread fraud.
Under the Electoral College system, electoral votes are allotted to states and the District of Columbia based on their congressional representation.
Congress is due to make the Electoral College tally official on Jan 6 in what is largely a ceremonial session.
"You just get some theatre with your ceremony this time,"said constitutional law professor Justin Levitt from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a former deputy assistant attorney-general in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice.
Mr Hawley's objection could trigger hours of debate and would force a vote over the objection, Prof Levitt said. That could put some Republicans in the uncomfortable position of rejecting Mr Trump's claims of fraud.
Despite Mr Hawley's challenge, senior Republican senators have said that Mr Biden's victory will stand in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, acknowledged Mr Biden's victory on Dec 15 and has urged other Senate Republicans to refrain from objecting on Jan 6.