FILE - PA Tom Wolf 8-25-2020

Gov. Tom Wolf answers questions from reporters Aug. 25, 2020, in Harrisburg.

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said a third-party audit of the 2020 general election completed in Arizona last month amounts to little more than a “sham” organized by fringe politicians bent on perpetuating skepticism about the outcome of last year's presidential race.

“Some bad actors in the Legislature and across the country are spewing debunked conspiracy theories as they try to undermine confidence in the November election and its outcome,” he said during a news conference in Harrisburg on Wednesday. “In Arizona, fringe politicians have forced a sham audit that is an embarrassing and chaotic mess, and it is dividing the public and Republican politicians.”

Last week, three state GOP lawmakers traveled to Phoenix for a private tour of the facility where an audit team recounted more than 2.1 million ballots cast last year in Maricopa County. President Joe Biden clenched Arizona by roughly 10,000 votes last year – the first time a Democratic candidate carried the state since 1996. 

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Chambersburg, and Sens Cris Dush, R-Wellsboro, and Doug Mastriano, R-Gettysburg, then met with Arizona lawmakers to discuss the audit results. Mastriano, a rumored candidate for governor when Wolf’s term expires in 2022, told the Wall Street Journal he’s uninterested in “overturning anything,” while Dush said he wants answers for his constituents who still don’t trust the final results.

Wolf said Wednesday it’s “those kind of lies” that fueled the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill. Mastriano organized a bus trip to the “Stop the Steal” rally that occurred that same morning, but says he left before an angry mob stormed the Capitol building.

“Some Republicans are wasting taxpayer money so they can spew dangerous lies to divide the people and spread doubt about an election,” Wolf said. “The infighting they’ve created, the lies they’ve spread, and the public money and resources they’ve wasted to do it is shameful.”

House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove, R-York, said he’s uninterested in conducting an audit of the election. His counterpart in the Senate, Chairman Dave Argall, R-Schuylkill, told the Penn Capital-Star he was reviewing “the pros and cons.”

Argall has the distinction of being called out by name alongside Senate President Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, in a statement from former President Donald Trump demanding a forensic audit in Pennsylvania similar to the effort undertaken in Arizona. 

Wolf said residents deserve leaders “who deliver for our families and uphold our rights.” He vowed to fight against election reforms that roll curtail mail-in voting, impose stricter voter I.D. rules, or “encourage the same dysfunction and chaos occurring in Arizona.” 

“It is wrong to pass laws that take away someone’s freedom to vote for your own political gain,” he said. “Lies and disinformation about fair elections drove our nation to the brink of disaster on January 6, and now the same people who spread those lies, who encouraged the mob that attacked our nation’s leaders, are attacking the freedom to vote.”

Grove concluded a slate of 10 hearings on election reform in April and released a report detailing the proposed actions Republicans want to take, but repealing the 2019 mail-in voting law was not one of them. Instead, the report suggests earlier deadlines for voter registration and requesting mail-in ballots would ease the burden on county election offices that were swamped with record-level applications last year.

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.