Sen. Josh Hawley

This photo shows Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.

Last week I objected during the Joint Session count of electoral votes in order to have a debate on the issue of election integrity. My objection proceeded according to the letter of the statute, which specifically permits for objections and debate, and followed the traditions of Congress. In fact, dozens of Democratic members of Congress have lodged objections in precisely the same forum over the last three decades. To be specific, Democrats objected after the elections of 2000, 2004 and 2016 — in other words, every time a Republican has won the White House in the last 30 years. And they were within their rights to do so. The Joint Session is the forum where concerns about an election can be raised, debated, and ultimately resolved with a vote.

The difference between those past instances and this year, however, is striking. In the past, when Democrats objected, they were praised for standing up for democracy.

This time around, anyone who objected has been called an “insurrectionist.” Sadly, much of the media and many members of the Washington establishment want to deceive Americans into thinking those who raised concerns incited violence, simply by voicing the concern. That’s false. And the allegation itself is corrosive and dangerous.

Let me say again, as I have said before: the lawless violence at the Capitol last week was criminal. There can be no quibbling about that. Those who engaged in it should be prosecuted and punished. Lawless violence undermines the democratic process by which we settle our disputes and threatens our democratic life. That applies to mobs of any and all political persuasions. Mob violence is always wrong.

But democratic debate is not mob violence. It is in fact how we avoid that violence.

Many, many citizens in Missouri have deep concerns about election integrity. They have a right to be heard in Congress.

As to my specific objection: I objected with regard to Pennsylvania because the state failed to follow its own constitution. The Pennsylvania constitution has been interpreted by the state’s courts for over a century to prohibit mail-in voting, except in clearly stated circumstances. But last year, Pennsylvania politicians adopted universal mail-in voting anyway. To make matters worse, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court then changed the rules for when mail-in ballots could be returned. And when Pennsylvania citizens tried to go to court to object, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the case on procedural grounds, in violation of its own precedent. To this day, no court has found the mail-in voting scheme to be constitutional, or even heard the merits of the case.

I also objected to point out the unprecedented interference of the Big Tech corporations in this election in favor of the Biden campaign, not just in Pennsylvania but everywhere. Their interference in our democratic process has only accelerated in recent days.

Some wondered why I stuck with my objection following the violence at the Capitol. The reason is simple: I will not bow to a lawless mob, or allow criminals to drown out the legitimate concerns of my constituents.

I am proud to represent you in Congress. Your voice helps make this country and our democracy strong. These are difficult days for our country. All I can promise you is that I will do my best, day in and day out, to represent your voice, no matter who criticizes me. And I will do my utmost to preserve, protect and defend this republic that we call home.

Josh Hawley is a Republican U.S. senator for Missouri.