A Pennsylvania Republican lawmaker requested “information and materials” from multiple counties for a “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election, marking the first step toward creating a copycat of the partisan audit in Maricopa County, Arizona.
State Rep. Doug Mastriano, who said he was encouraged to run for governor by former President Donald Trump, is certain to meet resistance from Democrats in the Legislature as well as state officials who have heavily criticized efforts to question the integrity of the November contest during which Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes.
By sending out letters to “several” counties on Wednesday, Mastriano, who is chairman of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, is fulfilling the wishes of Trump and his allies who have called for “forensic” audits in more battleground states that they insist were stolen due to fraud despite election officials asserting they were secure and the courts rejecting lawsuits meant to overturn the results.
Like in Arizona, post-election audits by election officials showed no widespread fraud, but Trump and his allies are calling for more in-depth partisan investigations while calling into question several facets of the election, including the voting machines used. But there have been explosive repercussions. Maricopa County officials announced last week that their voting machines that were subpoenaed for the audit will be removed from service after Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, threatened to decertify the equipment.
Letters were sent to Philadelphia County, York County, and Tiago County, Mastiano said in a Wednesday morning interview on One America News Network, but there could be more in his sights if “sufficient evidence” of “shenanigans and corruption or fraud” is found.
“We have asked these counties to respond by July 31st with a plan to comply,” Mastriano said in an op-ed posted to his website. “The counties represent different geographical regions of Pennsylvania and differing political makeups. Some are Republican while others are Democrat, which means that this will be a balanced investigation.”
Not only is the 2020 election mentioned, but also the 2021 primary, during which there were problems with machines in Luzerne County. Subpoenas were not explicitly mentioned in the post but remain a possibility. Subpoenas were used to obtain ballots and other election materials in Maricopa County, but not before the GOP-led Arizona Senate went to court in a legal fight against the county, and a judge determined the subpoenas were “legal and enforceable.”
A similar legal engagement could play out in Pennsylvania, delaying plans for the audit. In a statement following Mastriano’s announcement, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro accused the lawmaker’s continued efforts of being a way for him to “pay homage to former President Trump and further spread misinformation about our elections,” and he urged county officials not to comply with the requests.
Mastriano conducted a private briefing for his GOP colleagues in the state Senate last week, and he obtained legal advice from a Philadelphia-based law firm about the GOP caucus using private money to pay for consultants and lawyers.
In his op-ed, Mastriano said an audit is “necessary” because “millions of Pennsylvanians have serious doubts about the accuracy of the 2020 General Election.” He also criticized Democrats who argue that “the only distrust in our election process was because of the ‘conspiracy theories and lies’ from those they disagree with politically.” Such characterizations,” he said, are an “ad hominem attack.”
Mastriano was one of the Republican lawmakers from the Keystone State to tour Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, the location of the GOP-led Arizona Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election. The auditors, led by private firm Cyber Ninjas, have wrapped up their main operations and are expected to release their findings later this summer.
Shapiro, a Democrat, predicted Gov. Tom Wolf will be a key ally in fending off Republicans “trying to service the Big Lie” with their push for an audit in his state and any effort to challenge the results of the November election.
“The reason I’m optimistic is because of the veto pen of our Democratic governor, and it is critically important that we always have that veto pen to be able to beat back these challenges to our democracy,” he said during an interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace on Tuesday.
Elizabeth Rementer, a spokeswoman for Wolf, confirmed the governor will fight Mastriano’s investigation.
“This latest attempt echoes efforts in Arizona and Fulton County that compromised election machinery and provided access to third-party individuals without the proper qualifications or security measures,” Rementer added. “This illogical, partisan effort to overturn the 2020 election will only lead to the decertification of voting machines that are compromised, additional expense for counties, and more partisanship that only seeks to undermine Pennsylvania’s elections. The administration will stand up to any attempt to disrupt our electoral process and undermine our elections.”