HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania state senator who has helped spread former President Donald Trump's falsehoods about fraud in last year's presidential election said Wednesday that he has asked several counties to submit to a "forensic investigation" of the 2020 election and May's primary election.
Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, said in a statement that, as chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, he issued letters to several counties, requesting "information and materials needed to conduct a forensic investigation of the 2020 General Election and the 2021 Primary."
Counties were asked to respond by July 31 "with a plan to comply," he wrote. Mastriano did not name the counties, but York County confirmed Wednesday that it received a letter.
Mastriano could theoretically issue subpoenas to holdout counties with a majority vote of his committee. The Democratic bastions of Philadelphia and Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, could be prime targets.
Trump has applied pressure to Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania to conduct an Arizona-style audit, as he has in other states he lost narrowly.
In Arizona, the state Senate used its subpoena power to take possession of more than 2 million ballots and the machines that counted them, along with computer data.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Mastriano led a private briefing last week for Republican senators on his plan and solicited legal advice from a Philadelphia-based law firm about the Senate Republican caucus using private money to finance consultants and lawyers.
No county election board, prosecutor or state official has raised concern over any sort of widespread election fraud in November's election in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Department of State released a statement, saying:
"The Department of State encourages counties to refuse to participate in any sham review of past elections that would require counties to violate the trust of their voters and ignore their statutory duty to protect the chain of custody of their ballots and voting equipment. The Department stands ready to assist counties in upholding their statutory duty to protect the security and integrity of their election machines and systems. Further, we will direct the counties that, if they turn over voting machines or scanners, they should be prepared to replace that brand-new, expensive equipment before any future elections. When the Secretary certifies voting systems, she certifies that they can be secured from outside intrusion. Such a 'forensic' exercise as that described by the senator would nullify that assurance.
"Additionally, the federal government has designated voting equipment as protected infrastructure and, as such, there should be no expectation that anyone without the necessary security clearance would be afforded the kind of access requested here.
"We already have seen systems compromised in Fulton County and in the state of Arizona. In both cases, the politically motivated reviews turned up absolutely no evidence of any fraud or discrepancies. Those partisan exercises did, however, prove to be very costly for local officials and taxpayers when election administrators were forced to lease or purchase replacement equipment.
"Pennsylvania counties, despite a convergence of difficult circumstances, ran a free, fair and accurate election in 2020. The majority of Pennsylvanians – and Americans – are satisfied with that truth.
"And yet there continue to be similar moves to conduct reviews in other states, led by a very small group of bad actors, who are not trying to allay election mistrust. They are feeding it for their own purposes, and in the process impugning the integrity of the county and local election officials we rely on to conduct elections, and leaving them to find millions to pay for the new equipment which would be needed if they comply.
"We will oppose any attempt to disrupt our electoral process and undermine our elections at every step and with every legal avenue available."
(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
for more features.