Republican lawmakers controlling the state legislature in Pennsylvania have voted to create an ‘election integrity’ committee – which Democrats are warning could be used to subvert the popular vote and send a slate of Donald Trump electors in the case of disputed results.
The move follows repeated complaints by the president about mail-in ballots and an unusual move by the Justice Department to announce an investigation over nine discarded ballots that were uncovered.
The 5-person committee would have a Republican majority. It could subpoena witnesses and documents, can initiate legal filings and can get to work before the November 3 election, which Trump on Tuesday once again said would be filled with fraud.
Pennsylvania House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. He has raised alarms about a new GOP-run ‘election integrity’ committee
House Democratic Minority Leader Frank Dermody of Allegheny warned in a statement: ‘To put it simply this is a dangerous threat to our democracy.’
The resolution passing the committee came on a party-line vote, and state Democrats are already claiming it could be part of a plot to overturn the will of the voters, in a state where Joe Biden is leading in the polls that was key to Donald Trump’s 2016 victory.
This is an unprecedented attack on non-partisan election administrators at a time when we should all be doing everything we can to instill confidence in our elections,’ said Gov. Tom Wolfe in a statement.
Another lawmaker, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, told the Huffington Post: ‘The reality is, bad things are happening in this committee. This is a bad bill that never should have been brought up.”
Dermody, the minority leader, fumed to the publication that the resolution ‘came out of nowhere. My guess is they wanted to have a companion operation going along with their plan to try and fix the Electoral College.’
The legislation creating the committee is titled: ‘A Resolution establishing the Select Committee on Election Integrity to investigate, review and make recommendations concerning the regulation and conduct of the 2020 general election.’
Pennsylvania State Rep. Garth Everett, a Republican, introduced the resolution and defended the new committee
President Trump has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting
But Democrats are warning it could have a more pernicious role: pushing to have the legislature, by party vote, declare the results invalid and instead send a slate of Republican electors to Washington for the meeting of the Electoral College.
A story in the latest issue of the Atlantic by Barton Gellman reports three state GOP legislators have discussed the direct appointment of electors – with one source telling the writer he had discussed it with the Trump presidential campaign.
‘I’ve mentioned it to them, and I hope they’re thinking about it too,” state GOP chair Lawrence Tabas, said.
“I just don’t think this is the right time for me to be discussing those strategies and approaches, but [direct appointment of electors] is one of the options. It is one of the available legal options set forth in the Constitution.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany brought up a group of ballots discovered in Pennsylvania as she attacked mail-in voting
He said all parties prefer a count that is swift and accurate. ‘If the process, though, is flawed, and has significant flaws, our public may lose faith and confidence”in the integrity of the election, he said.
Republicans are denying any nefarious plan. ‘The only thing it has the power to do is … oversight and investigation,” Rep. Garth Everett, who introduced the resolution for the committee, told the Philadelphia Enquirer. “It can’t make up rules, it can’t pass laws, it can’t do anything. Only [the legislature] can do that,’ he said.
The move comes as Trump and the White House House continue to attack mail-in voting, which will play a key role in Pennsylvania and other states.
Election experts are already warning about looming challenges after a ruling on ‘naked ballots’ – those without a special second envelope in the state that could get tossed.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany brought up a batch of ballots discovered in a trash can that were a source of controversy, as well as an initial DOJ press release that had to be corrected.
‘This is what is happening here. You are ignoring the problem here. Last week in Pennsylvania you had ballots found in a ditch. That’s a fact. In Wisconsin seven military ballots marked for Trump were found cast aside,’ she said. She was intending to refer to the military ballots discovered in a wastebasket in Pennsylvania.
McEnany, like Trump, votes absentee in Florida, but distinguishes that from mass mail-in voting.
Trump complained at Tuesday’s debate: ‘They found ballots in a wastepaper basket three days ago, and they all had the name — military ballots, they were military — they all had the name Trump on them.” In fact, only seven over the ballots were made out for Trump (two were resealed), and there are indications that a contract worker may have made a mistake. An FBI investigation is ongoing.
‘“In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They were called poll watchers — a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Cause bad things happen in Philadelphia, bad things,’ Trump said. The Enquirer wrote afterwards that the Trump campaing has no approved poll watchers in Philadelphia right now, and there are no polling places currently open.