Tue. Sep 27th, 2022


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A top Republican in Pennsylvania promises to review the 2020 results as conspiracy theories flourish.

4 min read

The top Republican in the Pennsylvania State Senate promised this week to carry out a broad review of the 2020 election results, a move that comes as G.O.P. lawmakers continue to sow doubts about the contest’s legitimacy by pushing to re-examine votes in battleground states like Arizona.

State Senator Jake Corman, who serves as president pro tempore of the G.O.P.-controlled chamber, made the comments in an interview with a right-wing radio host, and they were first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday. His remarks were the strongest sign yet that Pennsylvania — which President Biden won by more than 80,000 votes — may press forward with a review of 2020 results, despite no evidence of voter fraud that would have affected the outcome.

In the interview, Mr. Corman said that he wanted to begin “almost immediately” and that hearings would begin this week. He added that he expected to use the full power of the state’s General Assembly, including subpoenas, to conduct the review, which he referred to as a “forensic investigation.”

“We can bring people in, we can put them under oath, we can subpoena records, and that’s what we need to do and that’s what we’re going to do,” Mr. Corman said. “And so we’re going to move forward.”

Previously, State Senator Doug Mastriano, a Republican and vocal proponent of former President Donald J. Trump’s falsehoods about the election, had called for a review of results in three counties.

Until recently the chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, he sent letters requesting ballots, records and machines from Philadelphia County, which encompasses the state’s largest city and which Mr. Biden won with over 80 percent of the vote; York County, south of Harrisburg, which Mr. Trump won handily; and Tioga County, in the northern part of the state, which Mr. Trump also carried with ease. All three counties refused to comply, and Mr. Mastriano’s legal authority to enforce the requests remains unclear.

Last week, Mr. Corman removed Mr. Mastriano from his position as chair of the committee and installed State Senator Cris Dush, also a Republican, to lead the panel and oversee the review.

In the interview, Mr. Corman expressed his own doubts about the election.

“I don’t necessarily have faith in the results,” he said. “I think that there were many problems in our election that we need to get to the bottom of.”

Jason Thompson, a spokesman for Mr. Corman, said that they were “not setting a hard cap on how long the audit will take,” but that he could not comment further because “many of the details of the audit plan are still being worked out, and Senator Dush will need a little more time to settle on the final approach.”

Veronica Degraffenreid, who as the acting secretary of the commonwealth oversees Pennsylvania’s elections, has discouraged counties from participating in any election reviews, noting that any inspection of voting machines by uncredentialed third parties would result in their decertification, and that counties would have to bear the considerable costs of replacing the equipment.

Trump’s Bid to Subvert the Election

A monthslong campaign. During his last days in office, President Donald J. Trump and his allies undertook an increasingly urgent effort to undermine the election results. That wide-ranging campaign included perpetuating false and thoroughly debunked claims of election fraud as well as pressing government officials for help.

Baseless claims of voter fraud. Although Mr. Trump’s allegations of a stolen election have died in the courts and election officials of both parties from every state have said there is no evidence of fraud, Republicans across the country continued to spread conspiracy theories. Those include 147 House Republicans who voted against certifying the election.

Intervention at the Justice Department. Rebuffed by ranking Republicans and cabinet officials like Attorney General William P. Barr, who stepped down weeks before his tenure was to end, Mr. Trump sought other avenues to peddle his unfounded claims. In a bid to advance his personal agenda, Mr. Trump plotted to oust the acting attorney general and pressed top officials to declare that the election was corrupt. His chief of staff pushed the department to investigate an array of outlandish and unfounded conspiracy theories that held that Mr. Trump had been the victor.

Pressuring state officials to 'find votes.' As the president continued to refuse to concede the election, his most loyal backers proclaimed Jan. 6, when Congress convened to formalize Mr. Biden’s electoral victory, as a day of reckoning. On that day, Mr. Trump delivered an incendiary speech to thousands of his supporters hours before a mob of loyalists violently stormed the Capitol.

“The Department of State encourages counties to refuse to participate in any sham review of past elections that would require counties to violate the trust of their voters and ignore their statutory duty to protect the chain of custody of their ballots and voting equipment,” Ms. Degraffenreid’s office said in a statement last month.

It remains unclear exactly how Mr. Corman and the Pennsylvania Senate will proceed with their review, including what they might seek in terms of equipment and records, and which counties they might focus on. Mr. Corman did say that, after talking with fellow legislators in Arizona, he was looking for a “neutral arbiter” to help carry out the review — a potential nod to how the Maricopa County review became widely ridiculed in part because the chief executive of the company carrying out the re-examination had promoted conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines costing Mr. Trump victory in the state.

“I think it’s important that we get people involved that don’t have ties to anybody, that are professional, that will do the job so that we can stand behind the results,” Mr. Corman said.

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