A dozen Republican senators announced they would formally object to the results of the US presidential election, escalating Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat, and deepening a split in their own party. The group, which included Texas senator Ted Cruz, defied the Republican leadership in the Senate and said it would raise objections on Jan 6 when a joint session of Congress is due to certify Joe Biden’s victory. In a joint statement the senators said: “We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it. “The 2020 election featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.” The group said the it would “do everything we can to restore faith in our Democracy” and called for an “emergency 10-day audit”. Mr Cruz and the other senators said they were not “naive” in thinking they could succeed, acknowledging that Democrats and some Republicans would push the certification through. The Senate is currently held by Republicans with a majority of 52-48. Republican senators objecting to the certification have been accused by colleagues of trying to “tap in” to Mr Trump’s populist support, potentially preparing the ground for their own future presidential runs. Mr Cruz and 11 others joined Republican senator Josh Hawley, from Missouri, who earlier this week became the first sitting member to announce he would challenge the election result. At least 140 members of the House of Representatives also plan to contest the result on Jan 6. In their statement Mr Cruz and the other senators said they intended to vote to reject electors from swing states that have been at the centre of Mr Trump’s assertions of election fraud. They said: “Voter fraud has posed a persistent challenge in our elections, although its breadth and scope are disputed. By any measure, the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes. “Ideally, the courts would have heard evidence and resolved these claims of serious election fraud. Twice, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to do so; twice, the Court declined.” Mr Cruz cited as a precedent the election of 1876. He said on that occasion Congress had appointed an Electoral Commission of five senators, five House members, and five Supreme Court justices to resolve disputed returns.