GOP-controlled Pa. Senate panel to vote this week on subpoenas in election probe | Politics | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

GOP-controlled Pa. Senate panel to vote this week on subpoenas in election probe

The GOP ups the ante in its inquiry into alleged ‘irregularities’ in the 2020 election. Dems dismiss it as a ‘disgraceful’ waste of time

click to enlarge GOP-controlled Pa. Senate panel to vote this week on subpoenas in election probe
Capital-Star file photo
Cris Dush now chairs the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which is probing the 2020 election
A Republican-controlled state Senate panel looking into alleged irregularities in the commonwealth’s elections will meet on the morning of Sept. 15 in Harrisburg to vote on whether to slap the Pennsylvania Department of State with subpoenas after the agency took a pass on the panel’s opening meeting last week.

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, chaired by Sen. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson) will meet at 9:30 a.m. in Room 8-EB in the Capitol’s East Wing, according to a statement issued late last Friday night by a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre).

“The subpoenas are expected to include communications and other election records from the Pennsylvania Department of State. The meeting follows a hearing [last week] in which Department of State officials refused to testify,” the statement, which is attributed to Dush, reads.

The Department of State declined the invitation, citing pending litigation, the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish reported last week.

In a testy statement issued earlier in the day on Friday, Corman, the chamber’s top Republican, blasted the election oversight agency, accusing it, and the Democratic Wolf administration, of a “dereliction of duty,” and said it “continues a troubling pattern of refusing to take accountability for weaponizing an agency that is supposed to be non-partisan.”

That taxpayer-funded hearing, held on Sept. 9, was intended to focus on the guidance the Department of State issued to counties ahead of last November’s election. To say it turned into something of a dog-and-pony show would do disservice to hardworking dogs and ponies the world over.

The only witness to show up, Fulton County Commissioners’ Chairman Stuart Ulsh, told the panel that while the agency’s guidance was “confusing,” there was no evidence of any fraud.

Which raises the question of why it’s even being conducted in the first place.

Two post-election reviews — a statistical sampling required by law and a risk-limiting audit — were conducted after the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. Sixty-three out of the commonwealth’s 67 counties participated in the risk-limiting audit pilot, and neither assessment found evidence of fraud.

Certified results show that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election by 80,555 votes in Pennsylvania. In the same cycle.

Dush has said the review his panel is conducting is not a recount. Instead, it is the first in a series of public meetings aimed to evaluate the state’s election code and “restore confidence in the electoral process,” Dush argued.

“This investigation is not about overturning the results of any election as some would suggest,” Dush said last week, adding that the review will not lead to the reinstatement of former President Donald Trump. “That horse is out of the barn as far as this investigation is concerned.”

Dush also has said his panel’s proceedings could lead to changes in Act 77, the 2019 state law approved with overwhelming Republican support, that expanded no-excuse, mail-in balloting in the commonwealth.

The law, which also had Gov. Tom Wolf’s backing, not only enabled Republicans to expand their legislative majorities in the state House and Senate, but also to capture two of the state’s three elected row offices. All nine GOP members of the state’s Congressional delegation similarly won re-election under its auspices.

Nonetheless, the GOP has been working since last fall to try to knock the legs out from under the law, arguing that it’s riddled with problems. In the state House, 14 Republicans are currently suing to overturn the law. Eleven of them voted in favor of it at the time, the Capital-Star previously reported.

Senate Democrats slammed the GOP’s gambit in a statement of their own, dismissing it as a “disgraceful” waste of the chamber’s time and the taxpayers’ money. The subpoenas, they added, just for good measure, are “unlawful.”

The announcement “completely contradicts what their own committee chairman stated on the record [on Sept. 9] about how this is not about the rehashing last year’s election, but rather looking forward to see what needs to be changed in our state election laws,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said. “This is their latest attempt to disenfranchise voters and undermine the integrity of our electoral system.”

Costa added that he found it “disgraceful that Senate Republicans have chosen to waste precious time and resources at the expense of taxpayers calling into question the legitimacy of an election in which the rest of this Commonwealth and nation has put behind them.”

John Micek is the Editor-in-Chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

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