Where did Masstriano get the idea for this audit?
Mastriano models his proposed audit based on a controversial audit that has been going on for months in Maricopa County, Arizona. Among other things, this audit leads the county in the southwestern United States to spend millions to replace all audited machines after being unable to verify the chain of custody during the exam.
State Senator Judy Ward (R-Fulton), who sits on Mastriano’s intergovernmental operations committee and is said to be one of the senators voting to issue subpoenas, had previously partnered with Mastriano on a type audit Arizona, Pennsylvania.
In December, the two state senators asked officials in rural Republican-led Fulton County to authorize a vote audit by the same company that audited Arizona: Wake Technology Services Inc.
There was little evidence of what the company did, and Dominion Voting Systems, which leases the machines used by Fulton, said the county would have to pay for new ones because the company could no longer be sure the machines were functioning properly. . Fulton County officials estimated it would cost at least $ 2.7 million to replace them.
Do other Harrisburg Republicans support him?
Republicans on the Intergovernmental Operations Committee are Mastriano, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Center, who is a voting member on all Senate committees), Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), David Argall (R-Berks) , Cris Dush (R-Jefferson), Chris Gebhard (R-Lebanon) and Judy Ward (R-Fulton).
If Mastriano decides to call for a vote on the subpoenas, he will only need six votes to pass them – well within reach if most Republicans are on the same page.
Argall, a senior member who chairs the state government committee, has verbally supported audits in the past. A staff member confirmed that he remained absolutely interested in leading one, but said the process for Mastriano’s proposal was still under negotiation.
A Dush staff member gave a similar response: The senator wants some sort of audit, but is waiting for more details. Dush was one of the senators from Pennsylvania who traveled with Mastriano to Arizona in early June to observe an election audit there.
Gebhard also did not respond to WHYY’s request for comment, but told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star he was “excited” to have the chance “to provide clarity, transparency and ‘help restore faith in our election’.
Hutchinson did not respond and did not address the audit publicly. Ward, who was instrumental in the Fulton audit, also did not comment.
The final and most powerful member, Corman, also did not comment. But in a recent interview he gave to ABC23 television during an unrelated event, he gave the Senate GOP leadership’s most candid response to date.
“There were a lot of questions,” he says. “Of course, my fellow citizens call me regularly. But there are also a lot of questions about how an audit can and should be done, if it is to be done. And so we are trying to fix a lot of these bugs. I’m trying to review what’s going on in Arizona. It’s always a good thing to learn from other states, isn’t it? “
What are Democrats doing in response?
Some Democratic leaders dismissed the request as not very serious.
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who also campaigns for the United States Senate, wrote on Twitter that in light of recent “bizarre and messy requests on official Pennsylvania elected letterhead”, he was officially asking that actor Paul Rudd reenact scenes from the movie “I love you, man” with him. He called the prospect that Mastriano’s committee might summon election material to appear “vague and improbable.”
Others were less dismissive, but still strongly critical.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro – who is expected to be the 2022 Democratic frontrunner for the governor, and therefore a potential opponent of Mastriano – has anticipated a possible litigation and has indicated he believes the GOP’s position will be weak.
“If subpoenas are issued, you can expect our office to do everything to protect the Commonwealth, its constituents and the free and fair elections that have been held in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
The Pennsylvania State Department has made it clear that it also expects an uphill battle in court.
“We will oppose any attempt to disrupt our electoral process and undermine our elections at every stage and with all available legal avenues,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid then issued a directive to counties prohibiting them from allowing third parties to audit their voting machines, saying it “undermines chain of custody requirements and the strict limitations on access needed. to prevent intentional and inadvertent tampering with electronic voting systems ”.
The move drew a strong reaction from GOP leaders, who saw it as an “attack” on their supervisory powers.
“The legislature clearly has the power – both statutory and constitutional – to exercise oversight and issue subpoenas,” Corman wrote in a statement. “This directive violates the rights that were specifically put in place to prevent potential abuses and excesses by the executive branch.”
He ended with a vaguely veiled threat against Degraffenreid, which has yet to be confirmed by the Senate to take on his role definitively.
Calling her directive “deeply partisan,” Corman said it questioned the acting secretary’s ability to be a neutral arbiter and “will be a key consideration when the Senate considers her appointment in the fall.”
This is when the Senate is back in session after its summer recess. When they return, their grand audit plans will be just one part of a huge to-do list, which includes redrawing the Commonwealth’s Congress maps in time for the 2022 election.