State GOP lawmakers call for election audit after Trump's fraud claims

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have called for an audit of the Nov. 3 general election before certifying any results.

In a letter sent Friday to Gov. Tom Wolf, House Speaker Bryan Cutler said the state Supreme Court's decision to extend the deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots was unconstitutional and that the 105,000 provisional ballots cast on Election Day are an indication that something wasn't right.

"Clearly, the significant number of provisional ballots are indicative of voter issues across the commonwealth," he stated.

Cutler also said poll watchers were denied access to "meaningfully observe the proceedings" of precanvassing and canvassing ballots and that Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar issued conflicting guidance about how to handle mail ballots that arrived after Nov. 3.

State Rep. Bryan Cutler

And, Cutler said, some counties began precanvassing ballots early to identify "defects" in the voter declarations so they could be fixed by the voters before counting began.

As of Monday, Pennsylvania still hadn't finished counting the 105,000 provisional ballots cast on Election Day, which must be verified for legality before they can be tabulated.

York County accounts for about 5,800 of them, and county election officials have been verifying and precanvassing the provisional ballots since Friday, Commissioner Julie Wheeler said.

The breakdown of which ballots were for former Vice President Joe Biden versus Trump was not yet available Monday, she said.

Biden, a Democrat, is the projected winner of the presidential race, with a lead of about 47,500 votes, or 0.06%, over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. Biden declared victory Saturday after most major news outlets announced their projections.

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But the president has not conceded and is mounting legal challenges in several states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona, and he has a large portion of the Republican Party behind him.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams County, along with fellow Republican state Sens. Michele Brooks and Scott Hutchinson, issued a joint memo Friday requesting a full recount of votes "in any counties where state law was broken, regardless of the Department of State’s instructions, as well as in any precinct where questionable actions were demonstrated."

Democrats and local officials have denied that any fraud occurred during the Nov. 3 election, and Trump has failed to produce any specific evidence supporting his claims.  

Chester County, Pa., election worker Kristina Sladek opens mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 General Election in the United States at West Chester University, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in West Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

York County's Republican state House delegation — Stan Saylor of Windsor Township, Kate Klunk of Hanover, Seth Grove of Dover Township, Dawn Keefer of Franklin Township and Keith Gillespie of Hellam Township — issued their own statement Monday in support of Cutler and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's call for an election audit.

"Numerous questions have been raised about the process, which was muddied by the state Supreme Court’s interference in how the election was to be conducted and conflicting guidance from the Department of State," they stated.

In a statement issued later Monday, Keefer said the election's results should not be certified nor should electors be seated until the completion of an audit.

And Pennsylvania's Republican congressional delegation, including Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, joined the chorus calling for a closer look at the election process and also called for Attorney General Josh Shapiro to recuse himself from all election proceedings in letter sent Saturday to Wolf and Boockvar.

"Statements made by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, including social media posts calling the outcome of the election, prior to the tabulation of a single vote, are troubling and highlight the Attorney General’s inability to maintain impartiality and to separate his sworn duties from his political desires," they stated.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf rebuked criticism of how the election was handled in a series of tweets Saturday, thanking the state's election officials and poll watchers for administering a "free, fair and open election" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Any attempts now or in the future to undermine our elections and subvert the will of Pennsylvanians must be categorically rejected," he said, after congratulating Biden on his victory.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, is among a handful of Republicans in Congress who have rejected Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud, joining  the likes of Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. 

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