Election 2020 Pennsylvania

Election workers sort and inspect ballots before they are counted for the 2020 general election at the Dauphin County Administration Building, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Harrisburg, Pa.

(The Center Square) – House lawmakers in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly are demanding a legislative-led audit of the 2020 election before the state certifies the results. 

The calls come after House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, told reporters that the newness of Act 77 – the 2019 law that expanded mail-in voting privileges to most residents – combined with inconsistent guidance from the Department of State and meddling from the courts leaves a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the state’s 20 electoral votes, currently called for former Vice President Joe Biden.

But rank and file lawmakers – dismayed by the complaints rolling in from their districts about confusion at the polls – say it’s their “legislative duty” to delve deeper into what went wrong on Election Day.

“We believe this moment is pivotal and important enough that the General Assembly needs to take extraordinary measures to answer these extraordinary questions,” Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York, said. “We also believe our representative oversight duty as the Pennsylvania’s legislative branch of government demands that we immediately work to establish a forum where these issues can be thoroughly reviewed in full view of the people of Pennsylvania, for the purpose of determining whether Tuesday’s election was conducted fairly and lawfully.”

Keefer led a group of House lawmakers in calling for a bipartisan committee with subpoena powers to investigate the claims of fraud, disenfranchisement and incompetency coming from residents who struggled to cast a ballot during the election. 

“Public sentiment and the sheer volume of lawsuits filed both before and since the election warrant such investigatory action,” she said. “Our constituents are demanding concrete action and it is our firm conviction that we must take these steps to ensure public trust in our electoral system.”

But it appears the effort lacks any bipartisan support. Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, criticized Keefer and other GOP lawmakers for “sowing seeds of doubt and discord” despite no evidence of wrongdoing. The Department of State likewise denied the claims in a statement to PennLive on Tuesday.

“To put it very simply, this attempt to undermine the integrity of our elections without any evidence is shameful,” Boyle said. “I will continue to speak out anytime anyone tries to call the integrity of our elections into question without proof.”  

The process Keefer outlined comes after Cutler called for a more broad audit of the process last week. The speaker also requested an audit of the June primary, which he said in a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf was the genesis of House Bill 2626, a measure that updated the state’s election code after flaws with the new mail-in system were detected. The legislation never made it through the Senate over disagreements with the administration about pre-canvassing.

Despite this, rank-and-file Republicans will move forward with their own inquiries. Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, announced a series of hearings on election complaints after taking over as the new majority chairman of the State Government Committee on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, said the committee should begin its work “immediately."

"A thorough review of this year's election process is necessary. Having safe and secure elections with reliable results should not be a Republican or Democrat issue,” he said. “That is why we are using the bipartisan standing committee structure to handle this legislative function.”

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.