HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republicans in Pennsylvania’s state Senate are pushing forward what the GOP calls a “forensic investigation” of last year’s presidential election, scheduling a Senate committee meeting for next Wednesday to vote on subpoenas.
It is another sign that Pennsylvania Republicans will follow in the footsteps of Arizona’s Senate GOP, whose widely discredited and partisan election “audit” began with subpoenas in search of fraud to legitimize former President Donald Trump's baseless conspiracy theories that the election was rigged against him.
The newly scheduled meeting came after the top Republican in the chamber, President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, said Friday that he wants to issue subpoenas for information and testimony from top state election officials and the state’s voter registration system.
In his statement, Corman also said the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee — which plans to meet Wednesday — should “take other steps necessary to get access to ballots and other voting materials to begin a full forensic audit of the 2020 General Election."
In its online agenda, the Republican-controlled committee said it will meet “to consider a motion to authorize the issuance of subpoenas,” but did not give further details.
Democrats have vowed to fight any subpoenas in court, and say the Republicans' aim to get a hold of ballots would violate a voter’s constitutional right to keep their voting choices a secret.
Election officials from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration declined to testify before the committee Thursday.
The GOP's taxpayer-funded undertaking comes as Trump continues to press battleground states where he lost to investigate the election. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election have been debunked by the courts, his own Justice Department and scores of recounts.
Corman and fellow Republicans also have repeatedly distorted the actions of judges and state officials leading up to last year’s election, perpetuating the idea that Democrats cheated.
Arizona's so-called audit, funded mostly by Trump allies, continues to drag on and does not remotely resemble any kind of audit that is accepted by the election administration community.
The undertaking in Pennsylvania could cost millions of dollars, and Republicans have yet to answer major questions about how it will work, who will work on it or where a potentially vast amount of documents and equipment will be stored.
Democrats have sharply criticized it, saying the Republicans' “sham audit” or “fraudit” is a stunt to erode the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory and an extension of a national campaign to attack voting rights. Biden beat Trump in Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, according to certified results.
The state senator who is chairing the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee at Corman's behest is Sen. Cris Dush, who visited the Arizona audit and vowed to bring it to Pennsylvania.
Dush, R-Jefferson, was also one of 64 Republicans in Pennsylvania’s Legislature who signed a statement last December urging members of Congress to block Pennsylvania’s electoral votes from being cast for Biden, despite no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.
Democrats say the ultimate goal of the Republicans’ undertaking is to undermine access to voting and eliminate Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said the Republican quest to get ballots “is shocking and a blatant disregard of a voter’s constitutional right that their ballot is secret.”
Costa also said it contradicts statements by Republicans that the aim of the “forensic investigation” is to find and fix election problems, not to rehash last year’s election.
Corman’s office responded Friday to Costa’s statements about ballot privacy by saying that “nothing that has been announced as part of this investigation has the potential to jeopardize ballot secrecy whatsoever.”
Last month, Corman seemed to stand behind thoroughly discredited conspiracy theories about a plot to tip the election by casting ballots for dead voters.
He told a pro-Trump online broadcast host that any ballots received by the committee would be compared to voter rolls “so we can match them up to see who voted, where were they living, were they alive.”
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