State Sen. Doug Mastriano announced Wednesday he is asking some Pennsylvania counties to take part in a “forensic investigation” of last November’s general election and this May’s primary. He cites a January poll showing 40 percent of Pennsylvania residents doubt the veracity of the 2020 election.
Mastriano (R-Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, York), an ally of former President Donald Trump, chairs the Intergovernmental Operations Committee. Trump contends, despite what his critics say is evidence to the contrary, that the presidential election was stolen.
A forensic audit of the 2020 election for Maricopa County, Ariz. is nearing completion. Mastriano had visited that audit site with other Pennsylvania officials. Meanwhile, there is talk of 2020 election audits in other states, notably Georgia.
“In 2020, there were 2.7 million ballots cast by mail and absentee compared to about 263,000 absentee ballots cast in 2016,” Mastriano said in a statement on his website. “Many of these ballots were counted at offsite locations with little outside observation or oversight. Furthermore, mail ballots without signature verification were permitted to be counted across the commonwealth…Additionally, in the weeks leading up to the election, the Department of State repeatedly altered the manner in which Pennsylvania’s election was conducted. Those who voted in person were held to a higher standard than those who mailed in their ballots. Signatures required for mail-in ballots were rendered meaningless as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that ballots could not be rejected based on an analysis of the voter’s signature.
“On September 17, the state Supreme Court ruled counties had to count ballots received up to three days after Election Day. A week before the election, the Department of State told the U.S. Supreme Court that ballots received after 8 p.m. on November 3 would be segregated. But the department changed the rules two days before the election and directed counties to canvass those ballots upon receipt. The U.S. Supreme Court had to step in and order the counties to segregate the ballots.
“It would defy logic to assume that an election with the kinds of drastic changes we saw in 2020 was run perfectly with zero errors or fraud,” the statement added.
Voters also encountered problems during the May 18 primary when some polling places didn’t have enough ballots, including in Delaware County, as reported in the Delaware Valley Journal.
It did not take long for state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to fire back at Mastriano.
“Although two legal audits have already been completed in Pennsylvania, Sen. Mastriano is now requesting a laundry list of confidential and privileged information from three Pennsylvania counties in continued efforts to pay homage to former President Trump and further spread misinformation about our elections,” said Shapiro in a press release.
“These counties should refuse to participate in this partisan fishing expedition,” Shapiro continued. “This ‘audit’ could risk decertifying the counties’ voting machines, costing county taxpayers millions of dollars. Right now, this information is being requested voluntarily but should subpoenas be issued, you can expect our office to do everything to protect the Commonwealth, its voters, and the free, fair election that was held in Pennsylvania.”
However, Mastriano said the previous “audits” were not adequate.
“The closest thing to an investigation we got was a small so-called ‘risk-limiting’ audit which consisted of a sample of only 45,000 randomly selected ballots from the November election,” Mastriano explained. “Not nearly the type of investigation that was needed to determine any fraud, misconduct, or technical anomalies.”
Both Shapiro and Mastriano have been mentioned as likely candidates for governor in 2022, although neither has filed for the race.
Meanwhile, state Sen. David Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), who chairs the State Government Committee, has said he is open to conducting a forensic audit of the 2020 election.
Sen. Sharif Street, minority co-chair of that committee, said, “Another proposed audit of the 2020 election and 2021 primary is a waste of our time and resources. Elections and Department of State activity fall under the purview of the State Government Committee, which myself and Senator Argall co-chair. The continued effort by some of my Republican colleagues to cast doubt on the veracity of Pennsylvania’s elections is ridiculous and redundant. Courts have weighed in. Multiple audits have been conducted. Our focus should be on the more than $7 billion in American Rescue Funds that sit unspent. Small businesses are still hurting, folks are still out of work and gun violence is rising across our commonwealth. We must get back to doing the work of regular Pennsylvanians.”
And state Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) added, “The 2020 election was fair, accurate and free of fraud. Any suggestion to the contrary is a deliberate attempt to perpetuate the Big Lie. When we return to session in the fall, we should be considering election reform measures that will make it easier for Pennsylvanians to vote and strengthen public confidence in our elections. A full forensic investigation of our most recent elections is not that. It is an attempt to undermine our democratic processes, and it cannot stand.”