EDITORIAL: Awful ‘audit’ idea hatched by GOP in Pa.

York Dispatch editorial board
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2020, file photo, Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, center, speaks to supporters of President Donald Trump as they demonstrate outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol, in Harrisburg, Pa. The claim in Mastriano's 2014 book about York, that a 1918 U.S. Army Signal Corps photo was mislabeled and actually shows York with three German officers he captured, has been disputed by rival researchers. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

It seemed only a matter of time before Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania hopped on the “election audit” bandwagon. 

Turns out, they’ve been on it all along.

While the ballot-smearing circus in Arizona has been getting most of the headlines, a stunning report by The Washington Post reveals that the democracy-undermining practice originated in Pennsylvania.

It will come as small surprise to anyone following the 2020 elections and their sorry aftermath that one of the ringleaders is state Sen. Doug Mastriano. The freshman Republican from Franklin County has worked tirelessly this past year to disenfranchise his own constituents in service to disgraced, disgraceful former President Donald Trump.

It was Mastriano, recall, who orchestrated a post-election Gettysburg panel last November to trumpet unfounded allegations of voter fraud from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others; who called for Pennsylvania’s Legislature to overturn Trump’s loss in the state; who plotted with Trump more than a dozen times in the weeks after the president’s overwhelming electoral defeat; who was in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6 along with thousands of other Trump-obsessed insurgents; and who has backed a variety of politically motivated, unnecessary voting restrictions.

He also wasted taxpayer money to fly to Arizona this month, where an ongoing farce dressed up as an audit of 2020 elections ballots — solely from a county that favored Democratic President Joe Biden — has drawn widespread derision, even from Republicans.

It was not Mastriano’s first encounter with such shenanigans, according to the Post.

In the months following last fall’s election, Mastriano was among a group of Pennsylvania Republicans who, the Post writes, “targeted at least three small counties, all of which Trump had won handily. Their proposal was unorthodox: to have a private company scrutinize the county’s ballots, for free — a move outside the official processes used for election challenges.”

Only rural Fulton County bit.

“Since we believe in transparency, we agreed to let them come in and do the audit,” wrote county Elections Director Patti Hess — a laughable assertion given, as the Post reported, “the residents of Fulton County initially had no idea that their ballots had been scrutinized.”

It was only after reference to “a Third-Party Analysis Team” was made in minutes of a county commissioners meeting that the issue was elevated.

Meanwhile, a draft report from the “audit” company, West Chester-based WAKE Technology Services, Inc. — which went on to assist Cyber Ninjas with the Arizona audit — cited just two inconsequential “issues of note,” yet a final, revised version cited five problem areas.

So: A private firm given access to state and federally certified elections machines finds alleged “issues” and uses them to plant suspicion and undermine voter confidence, the better to justify ever-increasing partisan voting restrictions.

If that sounds like what’s going on in Arizona, that may be less a coincidence than Pennsylvania being something of a dry run.

“The previously unreported lobbying (in Pennsylvania) foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities across the country as Trump supporters clamor for reviews of the ballots cast last fall, citing false claims that the vote was corrupted by fraud,” notes the Post.

Mastriano is now calling for an Arizona-like audit here, an idea quickly rejected by Gov. Tom Wolf and state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, who chairs the House’s State Government Committee, which oversees elections issues.

That opposition is welcome, but not as welcome as the day Mastriano eventually joins the past president he so slavishly emulates as a former office-holder. He has repeatedly shown Pennsylvania’s voters he does not value their presence or opinions. Come November 2024, they must return the favor.