Republicans start election 'investigation' in Pennsylvania

Associated Press
FILE - in this Feb. 5, 2019, file photo,  Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, speaks in Harrisburg, Pa. Corman, said Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, that he's putting state Sen. Cris Dush, R-Bradford, in charge of an "election integrity" undertaking and removing state Sen. Doug Mastriano from the post, whom he said he's had "many frustrations" with. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

HARRISBURG — Democratic members of Pennsylvania's Senate say that Thursday's first hearing in what Republicans call a “full forensic investigation” into last year's presidential election is part of a national campaign to attack elections.

It initially had been ardently pressed by senators vowing to bring an Arizona-style election “audit” to Pennsylvania.

But leaders of the state Senate's Democratic minority say it is a perversion of the Senate's rules and an extension of a nationwide campaign to roll back voting rights in service to former President Donald Trump's baseless claims that the election was stolen from him.

More:What we know about the ‘forensic audit’ of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election

More:‘This is a war’: Doug Mastriano's ties to election deniers and the Jan. 6 insurrection

More:Has the 'Election Integrity Committee' really disappeared from York County?

Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, called it a taxpayer-funded “campaign event” to rescue Trump.

The matter has sown discord in the Senate Republican caucus. But the Senate's top Republican, President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, has pledged to carry out a “full forensic investigation” of last year's election after previously being dismissive of the idea.

Corman has said the effort is necessary “to improve our election system going forward” and has vowed to issue subpoenas if necessary.

The committee's chairman, Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, said in opening remarks that the investigation was not about overturning the election or about Trump, but about looking “intensely” into last year's election and May's primary to determine if parts of the law “need to be changed to make our elections work better for everyone.”

The day's witness list, however, was small: just one county commissioner from a sparsely populated county. A Corman spokesperson said other counties had declined to testify, but officials from many of the state's most heavily populated counties roundly said they had not been contacted or invited to testify.

Officials from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's Department of State, which oversees elections in Pennsylvania, declined to testify because the testimony would relate to a lawsuit filed against the agency by state lawmakers, a spokesperson said.