WASHINGTON — Republicans in the Pennsylvania state legislature on Tuesday said they would take “extraordinary measures” to find out whether the election in their state was fair, despite having no evidence of any wrongdoing.
State Rep. Dawn Keefer, a Republican from York County, announced that Republicans in the state legislature would move to conduct an audit of the election, and that the state should not certify the election results, or select electors to the Electoral College, until it is completed.
“The General Assembly needs to take extraordinary measures to answer these extraordinary questions,” Keefer said while speaking in front of a group of a dozen or so House Republicans.
But Keefer admitted that she and the Pennsylvania GOP do not have anything more than questions. There is no evidence of anything resembling coordinated cheating in the election.
“We've just gotten a lot of allegations,” Keefer said, referring to what she said was a flurry of calls and e-mails from voters “who are concerned and outraged by the circumstances surrounding this election.”
Of course, the only circumstances that would lead any voter to believe there might have been cheating has been the evidence-free complaints from President Trump that such cheating did occur, and that Democrats are trying to cheat.
“Pennsylvania had a free, fair, and secure election,” said Wanda Murren, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat.
“Allegations of fraud and illegal activity have been repeatedly debunked and dismissed by the courts. Those attacks against the core values of Americans are intended to undermine our democracy, and we must reject them,” Murren said in an e-mailed statement.
The delaying of certifying the election, and of choosing electors, raised concerns that the Republican Party might be in fact trying to use baseless claims of cheating to throw out the popular vote result in Pennsylvania, where Democratic President-Elect Joe Biden leads President Trump by about 47,000 votes, with analysts projecting that his lead will be closer to 100,000 once all votes are counted.
The deadline to certify the election is Nov. 23 and the deadline to certify electors for the Electoral College is Dec. 8.
Under the law in Pennsylvania, the governor appoints electors, in accordance with the state’s popular vote returns. But the Pennsylvania Republican Party has come under scrutiny for the last two months, since The Atlantic first published a report in September that Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman was making plans to potentially have the state legislature send a competing slate of representatives to the Electoral College who would cast the state’s 20 electoral votes for Trump.
Corman later distanced himself from the idea, and such a scenario seems unlikely, given that Biden seems poised to carry the state by double the margin by which Trump won in 2016.
Moreover, such a move would almost certainly be illegal. The Constitution empowers legislatures to decide how their state will choose electors. Pennsylvania, like every other state, now chooses its electors by popular vote. It could change that before the next presidential election.
But Congress, also according to the Constitution, sets the date when electors are to be chosen — i.e., Election Day, which was Nov. 3.
Constitutional scholars agree that no state legislature can now retroactively decide to override its own state’s procedures.
But there is no question that the Trump campaign and the Republican party are taking steps that could move them closer to an attempt to override the popular vote, claiming that it was compromised by cheating, even though the top Republican experts on voting have repeatedly said such a rigged election is not even possible in the era of modern elections.
“The idea that a massive conspiracy could be undertaken that could actually change the result of a governor’s race or US Senate race — or certainly a presidential race — is a very far-fetched idea & beyond, really, the realm of possibility,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, told Yahoo News in late August.
The point made by LaRose and other Republican experts is that even isolated examples of cheating, which do happen, do not add up to a conspiracy. To manipulate tens of thousands of votes without detection is not possible given the multiple layers of security and accountability involved in running elections, experts say.
One of those layers is the post-election audit that Boockvar’s office, which oversees elections, is conducting.
And Biden’s margin of victory in states like Pennsylvania, and Michigan, where he leads by almost 150,000 votes, leaves no room for the potential that the kind of small-scale malfeasance or cheating that sometimes happens in elections would make a difference.
But Keefer claimed that an additional audit conducted by Republican politicians in the legislature is needed to “ensure public trust in our electoral system,” even as the Republican party undermines trust in the election by claiming there has been widespread cheating without any proof.
Trump himself has for months claimed, again without evidence, that mail voting was going to lead to a rigged election.
“How can the American people, the people of Pennsylvania, have confidence in a system when they see their elected leaders calling the process into question before it even starts?” said Rep. Kevin Boyle, a Democrat in the Pennsylvania legislature from Philadelphia.
The Trump campaign has also sued to delay certifying the election.
Biden campaign lawyer Bob Bauer told reporters Tuesday that the Trump campaign was engaged in “a procedural maneuver … but it's not going to have any effect on the outcome.”
Dana Remus, the Biden campaign’s general counsel, said they are “fully prepared for continued suits and continued attempts to create confusion and to do everything they possibly can to slow things. But at the end of the day, they have no evidence and thus they will not be able to stop this process.”
But Trump so far is receiving cover from most Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington. Only four Republican senators — Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have recognized Biden’s victory.
Some Republican senators, such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Josh Hawley of Missouri, have spread false information about a lack of access for election observers.
Crystal Hill contributed reporting.
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