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Keefer, other lawmakers call for investigation into election

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Republican state lawmakers on Tuesday called for the formation of a bipartisan investigative committee to review how the Nov. 3 general election was managed and address claims of fraud and malfeasance.

Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Franklin Township, stood with about 20 other lawmakers at the Pennsylvania Capitol Complex and said lawmakers' offices had been overwhelmed with calls and emails from constituents with concerns about the integrity of last week's election.

"Our constituents are demanding concrete action, and it's our firm conviction that we must take these steps and ensure public trust in our electoral system," said Keefer, who represents the 92nd District, which includes parts of York and Cumberland counties.

Most major media networks and news organizations, including The Associated Press, have called the presidential race for former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, with varying calculations about Biden's electoral vote total. But all of the winning projections have Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes in Biden's total.

The candidate who equals, or surpasses, 270 electoral votes wins the presidency.

But Republican President Donald Trump has not conceded, and his campaign is filing lawsuits in several states and preparing for recounts in Georgia and Wisconsin.

Trump has, with little evidence, claimed the general election was rife with fraud, especially in Pennsylvania's urban centers, including Philadelphia. 

State Rep. Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Franklin Township, and other GOP state lawmakers called for the formation of an investigatory committee Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, of voting in Pennsylvania,  following a slew of lawsuits filed by President Donald Trump's campaign claiming, without evidence, widespread fraud. Photo by Lindsey O'Laughlin

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The Trump campaign has filed several lawsuits in Pennsylvania, including a filing Monday asking that Pennsylvania refrain from certifying its election results until the campaign's complaints about some mail-in ballots are resolved.

The lawsuit claims that more than 682,000 mail-in and absentee ballots were received and processed without the opportunity for a campaign representative to observe the process, and that such ballots should be disqualified.

After the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming Philadelphia election officials weren't allowing their observers to stand close enough to see how the ballots were being counted, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled in the campaign's favor and ordered the city to provide meaningful access so all poll watchers, candidates or representatives could be within 6 feet of the election workers.

The suit filed Monday also claims that in-person voters were required to meet stricter security standards than mail-in voters, including signature verification.

Democrats and state officials say Trump's claims are baseless and represent his attempt to undermine trust in the election and its results. 

At Tuesday's news conference, Keefer said the legislators didn't have hard evidence to prove there were problems in the election but that the specific allegations of fraud need to be investigated by the committee to see whether any evidence exists.

"That's why we're calling for an audit," she said. "Let's vet those out and see what the outcome is."

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said allegations of voter fraud have been debunked and dismissed by the courts and that election officials in Philadelphia and Allegheny County ran the election with "the highest degree of transparency."

"Pennsylvania is going to fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters," Wolf stated. "We will protect this election and the democratic process."

The deadline to certify Pennsylvania's election results is Nov. 23, and presidential electors meet Dec. 14 to officially elect the president, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

With a chart outlining his department's accomplishments as a backdrop, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro talks with York Dispatch staff Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. There were 16 homicides in York City in 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said the president's lawsuit was meritless, The Associated Press reported, and local election officials in Philadelphia have denied any wrongdoing.

The most recent Trump campaign lawsuit calls for the disqualification of votes they deemed invalid due to lack of meaningful oversight by campaign representatives during the counting process, but the suit lacks hard evidence to back up the allegations.

Congressional Republicans, such as Reps. Scott Perry, of Carroll Township, and Lloyd Smucker, of Lancaster, have defended the president's right to pursue legal action against states where he appeared to lose narrowly to Biden.

In a statement issued Saturday, Smucker called on Shapiro and state Secretary of State Kathryn Boockvar to recuse themselves from any investigations related to the election. The goal, Smucker said, was so everyone could have confidence in the results once they're certified, "including President Trump and former Vice President Biden." 

On Tuesday, Keefer said Republican lawmakers haven't discussed any actions beyond investigating allegations of fraud and mismanagement, such as Republican state lawmakers potentially seating their own electors instead of those chosen by the voters. 

She doesn't know what the outcome will be because the legislature hasn't evaluated the claims yet, Keefer said.

"Faith in government begins with faith in the elections which select that government," Keefer said.

As of Tuesday, Biden led Trump by about 47,000 votes, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. 

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