Election 2020 Pennsylvania

A bicyclist passes a Count Our Votes sign near the Allegheny County Election Division Warehouse on Pittsburgh's Northside where votes continue to be counted, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

(The Center Square) – A Pennsylvania House committee advanced a resolution ordering a “nonpartisan” election audit after a contentious meeting in which Democrats claimed the measure was nothing but political.

House Resolution 1100, sponsored by Bedford County Republican Rep. Jesse Topper, advanced to the chamber floor on a party line vote of 15-10 in the State Government Committee on Wednesday.

The resolution directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to conduct a “risk-limiting audit” of the election after some residents expressed concern over the “confusion” experienced at the polls on Nov. 3.

The LBFC will review the canvassing process to both verify the accuracy of the results and suggest ways to improve the process, according to Topper. The audit widens the scope of the traditional review the Department of State conducts after every election, he said.

“Though elections are political in nature, the process in which they are held should be anything but political,” Topper said. “When people start questioning the process, they question the results. As lawmakers, we must ensure the integrity of all elections so that our process withstands the test of time and continues long after we leave office.”

But Democrats argued the resolution crosses constitutional boundaries by forcing counties to participate in an audit that wasn’t first approved as legislation. Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, sponsored several amendments to strike some or all of the resolution’s language, arguing that the problem it purports to solve was created by Republicans alone.

“The whole reason we have this resolution is because the maker of this resolution said there was so much confusion and chaos … which is the result of our unwillingness to do something about pre-canvassing,” he said. “That gap has been filled with conspiracy theory based in no fact. This is a waste of time.”

Topper fired back that he never used the word “chaos” or “fraud” to describe the election, noting that his choice to involve the LBFC came in part because of the organization’s equal representation of Republicans and Democrats.

“But we do know there was confusion,” he said. “In the district I represent, there was confusion on whether we cure ballots or do we not.”

“I’m not sitting here looking for any outcome to be reversed,” he added. “I believe our taxpayers and our voters want to be sure moving forward that every vote they cast is counted correctly.”

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.