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) – The Pennsylvania Department of State dismissed election return discrepancies as partisan conjecture after Republican lawmakers insisted officials counted an additional 170,000 ballots in error.

A group of conservative lawmakers, led by Lebanon County Rep. Frank Ryan, said an analysis of data pulled from DoS/SURE system records indicate that although only 6.7 million residents voted on Nov. 3, more than 6.9 million ballots were cast and included in the state’s certified results.

Additionally, the lawmakers noted, total votes cast for the presidential race trailed the certified results by roughly 32,000 ballots.

“These findings call into question the accuracy of the SURE system, consistency in the application of the Pennsylvania Election Code from county to county, and the competency of those charged with oversight of elections in our Commonwealth,” Ryan said. “These numbers just don’t add up, and the alleged certification of Pennsylvania’s presidential election results was absolutely premature, unconfirmed and in error.”

Wanda Murren, a department spokesperson, said Tuesday the “analysis” amounts to nothing more than “obvious misinformation” on the same level as the president’s failed legal challenges to overturn the election results. President-elect Joe Biden won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes with a narrow 81,000 ballot victory – an outcome that President Donald Trump says came via widespread fraud.

“State and federal judges have sifted through hundreds of pages of unsubstantiated and false allegations and found no evidence of fraud or illegal voting,” Murren said. "Now, the legislators have given us another perfect example of the dangers of uninformed, lay analysis combined with a basic lack of election administration knowledge.”

Murren said the discrepancies exist because a few counties have yet to upload their full vote histories into the SURE system – including Philadelphia, Allegheny, Butler and Cambria – which would account for a “significant” number of voters.

The phenomenon of “undervotes” for down ballot races in a presidential contest isn’t new, either, she said, noting that former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum received 200,000 more votes than President George Bush in 2004. 

“This obvious misinformation put forth by Rep. Ryan and others is the hallmark of so many of the claims made about this year’s presidential election,” Murren said. “When exposed to even the simplest examination, courts at every level have found these and similar conspiratorial claims to be wholly without basis.”

“To put it simply, this so-called analysis was based on incomplete data,” she added. 

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Gettysburg, sent a letter to Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue on Tuesday urging him to intervene as evidence of wrongdoing mounts.

“Election fraud is real and prevalent in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Yet, despite evidence, our governor and secretary of state inexplicably refuse to investigate.”

But the issue still divides Republicans. Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, released his own letter Monday criticizing the efforts of his colleagues to undermine the results, even though he, too, is disappointed by Trump’s loss.

“Talking about fraud and irregularities is easy,” he said. “Perhaps it is appropriate to say that talk is cheap. Providing facts under oath in a court setting is a difficult challenge but that is what our rule of law requires. That is what keeps our country civilized."

The Trump campaign filed more than 40 lawsuits across the nation challenging the election results and alleging widespread fraud. Most, including several in Pennsylvania, have been dismissed for lack of evidence.

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.