Pennsylvania Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations Launches Election Audit

GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania, a state Joe Biden won by 80,000 votes, this week demonstrated their continued loyalty to the former president by further pressing his baseless claims around the 2020 election. After months of resistance from the state’s top GOP leaders at Trump’s demands, a group of senators on the “Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee” (which is not normally responsible for overseeing elections) voted to issue subpoenas to the administration of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf. The unprecedented subpoenas require the personal identification documents of every Pennsylvania voter in the state, including names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, addresses, and the last four digits of house numbers. social Security.

Calling it a “forensic investigation” designed to determine whether the state’s voters lists have been compromised, the committee apparently intends to conduct an Arizona-style version of an “audit” of the vote. – with conclusions of voting irregularities and pre-ordered fraud. The process itself is red meat for MAGA’s base, which has been fueled by a constant stream of misinformation in right-wing media and the internet about voter fraud, including the bizarre and false claim that tens of thousands of dead Pennsylvanians voted. These claims have already been refuted by several courts and by two actual post-election audits in the state after the election. But the former president kept his supporters angry and suspicious through his sustained rhetoric about a stolen election. They continue to believe that the fraud occurred even though the dead voters somehow kept the GOP under the control of the Pennsylvania legislature and largely returned their House delegation to Congress. If this was a massive electoral theft, it was very stupid.

Governor Wolf criticized the subpoenas as a sham designed to promote the big lie about elections by “undermining confidence in our election by bringing an Arizona-style circus to Pennsylvania.” He said, “Let’s be very clear, this request for information is just another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections, and to capitulate to Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories on the 2020 election.” He then went directly to the Republicans behind the effort and made a connection with the Jan.6 insurgency. “This is a direct continuation of the same lies that led to the attack on Capitol Hill, and which have done so much to destabilize our political institutions in the ten months since last year’s election,” Wolf said. . “As even members of the Republican caucus in Pennsylvania have recognized, this masquerade must end.”

The force behind the subpoenas is committee chair Cris Dush, who visited Arizona and praised their efforts. This admiration comes despite the process that became a national punchline as “listeners” used ultraviolet lights to search for bamboo fibers on alleged Chinese paper and trafficked conspiracy theories (including one about chickens in a farm owned by one of the county supervisors who fed paper ballots before the farm burned down.) In Arizona, a third-party group called “Cyber ​​Ninjas” connected to bogus election conspiracy allegations nonetheless had access to data and sensitive machinery, and the handling of the equipment was so unorthodox and haphazard that the equipment had to be decertified at a cost to the taxpayer of over $ 2 million.

Already, an unauthorized “review” of voting materials in Fulton County, Pa., Which was conducted at the behest of two GOP state senators and funded by a “non-profit organization” affiliated with Trump-aligned lawyer Sydney Powell led to the decertification of the vote. machines in this county. Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid issued the decertification in July, citing the third-party review as violating state law. Neither the county nor the state can verify that Fulton’s voting machines “are safe to use in future elections,” she wrote to the board in a letter. The contractor, Wake TSI, then worked on the Arizona “audit”.

The subpoenas issued by the GOP-controlled committee have yet to identify which third-party vendors (such as Wake TSI or Cyber ​​Ninjas) may ultimately gain access to the data, which has worried Democratic lawmakers. “You are unable at this time, as we consider this vote, to tell the members of this committee and the public who exactly is going to have access to this information, how this information is going to be used and whether or not this information is going to be returned. public, “said State Senator Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat from Bucks County. State Senator Jay Costa concurred.” This could be an open invitation to identity fraud. It could be an open invitation to many bad things that could happen. That’s exactly what our argument is, ”Costa said.

The long-term damage of unprofessional, politically motivated, and third-party “audits” of election results is difficult to quantify, but their immediate effects – whether to justify draconian voter suppression laws in several states. or fueling a violent insurgency on Capitol Hill by radicals – are already clear. The mere presence of an “investigation”, as the GOP has learned from the Benghazi and Hillary Clinton mail server, is enough to sow significant doubts in the grassroots minds and maintain the ransom of political donations. from them.

But there is also a cost to the GOP that it may not yet appreciate: the more its own base thinks the system is unfair and rigged against them, the less likely they are to participate in it. This was a key factor in the GOP’s losses in the second round of Georgia’s Senate elections, which returned control of the Senate to the Democrats. It remains to be seen whether these doubts spill over into the 2022 midterm elections and actually create opportunities for Democrats.

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