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Pennsylvania House Republicans Vote For Election Procedure Study

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Republicans in the state House on Wednesday pushed forward on party lines a proposal for a review of election procedures in Pennsylvania, although its author insisted he accepts voting results and is not trying to overturn them.

GOP members of the State Government Committee all voted for the measure, despite arguments from Democrats that any "confusion" over voting procedures — the basis for the resolution — had been caused by the committee itself.

"The confusion that we see, if there's any confusion, was caused by inaction of this very committee," said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled General Assembly were unable to reach a deal before the election that would have let counties begin to prepare ballots for counting before Election Day.

The result was days of counting what was more than 2 million mail-in ballots. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat, won Pennsylvania in a key step toward his national win.

"This is not about outcomes," said Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford, who introduced it Tuesday. "This is about our process moving forward."

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and county commissioners of both parties had repeatedly asked the Legislature to act, and it's unclear how the General Assembly might want to revise the election law next year.

Democrats called the proposed study needless and a waste of money, and argued it improperly mandates participation from the Department of State and county officials. They said requiring cooperation has to be passed as legislation rather than as a resolution.

Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said the state has plans for another "risk limiting" audit under a pilot program to apply statistical tools to the Nov. 3 election, measuring its accuracy and to check for possible interference.

"Further, much of the benefit of the audit comes from the involvement of experienced professionals at the Department of State and county offices," Murren said in an email. "The Legislative Budget Finance Committee has no expertise or role in election administration, and it is inappropriate to pretend it does."

The resolution, which does not require approval by the Senate or governor, was sent to the House floor with only days left in the session and a long delayed state budget debate ahead.

It would provide a blank check for the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to examine various aspects of the election and report back in early February.

Topics would include how many mail-in ballots were requested and counted and details about the roughly 100,000 provisional ballots.

It also would look at the technical performance of the new voting machines used this year, how poll watchers were treated and the different county practices for "curing," or fixing, ballots that lacked secrecy envelopes or had other problems.

President Donald Trump is pursuing litigation in an effort to overturn results that show Biden won the state's 20 electoral votes. Biden's margin in the state is currently at about 82,000 votes, or 50% to 48.8%.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said the study was unrelated to the unsupported claims of fraud Trump has made.

"I don't know why people keep mentioning this is about fraud," Grove said. "It's about due process, making sure we have accountability during the election process."

The issues Trump's campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

Gov. Wolf release a statement on Thursday about the measure, saying:

HR 1100 allows partisan politicians in the legislature to audit their own election, a process that has been and should continue to be performed by non-partisan state and county election workers. The Legislative Budget Finance Committee has no expertise or role in election administration and no statutory authority outside the fiscal realm, and it is inappropriate to pretend it does. An audit by the LBFC would be incomplete, duplicative and unreliable. Instead of the House Republicans interfering in an existing and trustworthy audit process, especially when they were on the ballot, they should allow the non-partisan experts to do their job. That is the best way to ensure the public can have faith in the audit results.

A legislative audit is unnecessary and duplicative because post-election audits are standard practice for the administration. Not only will the counties perform an audit as required by law, but under the Wolf Administration, the commonwealth became one of the first states in the nation to pioneer pilots of the risk-limiting audit in partnership with leading, non-partisan election experts. The scientifically designed procedure uses statistical methods to confirm whether reported election outcomes are correct and to detect possible interference. As occurred in the primary, work on auditing the Nov. 3 election has started and at least 26 counties are completing the first phase of the pilot.

Pennsylvania's local election workers are the heroes of our democracy. They have been working tirelessly to count every vote, certify the results and perform an audit as the governor prepares to submit the commonwealth's slate of electors to the federal government based on the popular vote. Interference by partisan legislators in Harrisburg is wrong. It creates chaos and confusion and should be rejected. A reliable audit conducted by election experts is the best way for all Pennsylvanians to trust the results of this election.

(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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