Philadelphia City Hall (Image via pxHere.com)
The third county targeted in a proposed “forensic investigation” into Pennsylvania’s two most recent elections has declined to comply.
The Philadelphia City Commissioners unanimously voted on Friday against Sen. Doug Mastriano’s, R-Franklin, sweeping request for voting equipment and information used in the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections to conduct an Arizona-style election review.
In a Friday letter to Mastriano, Lisa Deeley, board chair, said the proposed review isn’t worth jeopardizing election integrity or the expense of replacing equipment. The commissioners also assured the senator that Philadelphia County election systems and processes are “fair and secure,” reminding him that the county has already complied with all required audits, reviews, and certifications for both elections.
“Philadelphia County’s participation in your proposed analysis would be duplicative of extensive efforts already undertaken by the Philadelphia Board of Elections, the Pennsylvania Department of State, state and federal courts, and your colleagues in the Pennsylvania State Senate,” Deeley wrote. “Participation could also impair our ability to operate fair and secure elections in Philadelphia.”
As required by law, Pennsylvania counties conducted post-election audits of a sampling of ballots. Sixty-three out of 67 counties — including Philadelphia — conducted “risk-limiting” audits. And even after a monthslong campaign led by former President Donald Trump, there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud or election misconduct.
“The 2020 general election was already audited — twice,” Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, said in a statement. “What Mastriano is requesting isn’t an actual audit at all, nor does it address his complaints which are about election procedures, decisions by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Pennsylvania Department of State.”
He added: “We have an obligation to protect the custody of all of our voting equipment to a third party, especially as it will result in its decertification.”
We have an obligation to protect the custody of all of our voting equipment and will not give that equipment to a third party, especially as it will result in its decertification.
— Commissioner Al Schmidt (@Commish_Schmidt) July 30, 2021
Mastriano, a Trump ally, sent letters to Philadelphia, York, and Tioga counties earlier this month, giving them until Saturday to respond with a plan to comply with the investigation. Days after the letters went out, the Department of State issued a directive that prohibits third-party access to election equipment for unauthorized reviews.
In Philadelphia County, the board estimates that it would cost more than $35 million to replace voting equipment.
York and Tioga, reliably Republican areas, also declined the request and cited the expensive cost of replacing voting machines. But in a Thursday letter to Mastriano, Tioga County officials said they rejected Mastriano “at this time” and added that they would need new voting machines paid for and delivered within three weeks, the Associated Press reported.
York County officials have not indicated any plans to rescind their rejection.
Mastriano, who has largely avoided speaking with reporters outside of conservative media outlets, did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this week, he told a Chambersburg-based radio station that the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which he chairs, could meet as soon as next week to vote on issuing subpoenas for the information. The committee had no scheduled meetings as of Friday.
Four Republicans on the 10-member panel have voiced support for the investigation — Sens. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, Chris Gebhard, R-Lebanon, and Judy Ward, R-Blair. Argall chairs the Senate State Government Committee, which has oversight of election issues.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, has declined to comment on the investigation. Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Venango, also a committee member, has not responded to requests for comment.
Senate Democrats oppose the investigation. Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, both Democrats, have dismissed the proposed investigation as a “sham.”
Sen. Daniel Laughlin, R-Erie, is the only GOP member to oppose the investigation publicly. In a Thursday op-ed, he blasted the proposed review and said only a “handful” of lawmakers support it.
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