Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano said he plans to launch a “forensic investigation” into the election results and procedures surrounding the 2020 general election and the 2021 primary.
“There is nothing to fear if there is nothing to hide. Those who have concerns about the integrity of the 2020 and 2021 election will have those concerns investigated and hopefully addressed,” Mastriano wrote. “Those who think that there was zero voter fraud, no irregularities, and that the elections were conducted perfectly will have the chance to be vindicated.”
The move comes as a number of Republican leaders across the country have continued to question the outcome of the 2020 election and cling to unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud. They have seized on the election fraud narrative as a campaign plank and a fundraising tool, as well as a way to curry favor with former President Donald Trump – who remains steadfast in his erroneous belief that he was robbed of victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Officials from three Pennsylvania counties – Philadelphia County, York County and Tioga County – confirmed to CNN that they received requests from Mastriano for election materials ranging from ballot tabulation equipment to voter rolls. The letters, which ask counties to turn over the materials voluntarily, request that counties respond with their plan to comply by July 31.
Officials for the counties said they were still determining how to respond. But Mastriano’s requests drew a swift rebuke from Democratic leaders in the state Senate as well as the state attorney general.
“Although two legal audits have already been completed in Pennsylvania, Senator 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,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement, encouraging counties to refuse to participate.
Regardless of whether the audit moves forward, it won’t upend the results of the 2020 election, which showed Joe Biden won the Keystone State by more than 81,000 votes, paving his path to the presidency.
But Shapiro, a Democrat, warned the audit could wind up costing taxpayers millions of dollars if the voting machines are decertified as a result.
“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,” he said.
Shapiro told CNN’s Anderson Cooper later Wednesday, “I can tell you where this specific effort will go, and that is absolutely nowhere. We will fight this tooth and nail in court.”
The Pennsylvania Department of State said counties should not comply with Mastriano’s request, calling it a “sham review” that would “violate the trust of their voters and ignore their statutory duty to protect the chain of custody of their ballots and voting equipment,” according to a Wednesday statement.
The department warned counties they would also be on the hook for replacing any voting equipment they hand over to Mastriano, saying, “If they turn over voting machines or scanners, they should be prepared to replace that brand-new, expensive equipment before any future elections. When the Secretary certifies voting systems, she certifies that they can be secured from outside intrusion. Such a ‘forensic’ exercise as that described by the senator would nullify that assurance.”
Mastriano took his displeasure with the 2020 election results to Washington on January 6, where he was spotted outside the US Capitol during the insurrection. He has said “police lines did shift throughout the course of the day,” and he condemned the violence. There’s no evidence that Mastriano went inside the Capitol.
For the Pennsylvania lawmaker, continuing his post-election skepticism with an audit push serves a clear political purpose. He has been eying a bid for governor, even going so far as to say Trump asked him to run and pledged to campaign for him. A Trump adviser poured cold water on that on Twitter, noting Trump hadn’t yet made an endorsement in the Pennsylvania governor’s race.
Still, Trump has been a vocal proponent of post-election audits, such as the one playing out in Arizona’s Maricopa County, and has cheered on the lawmakers behind them.
Mastriano was one of a handful of lawmakers who trekked to Phoenix to visit their so-called audit. The Arizona effort, which launched by GOP lawmakers, has been criticized by election officials from both parties for its opaque and sometimes preposterous procedures. Still, GOP lawmakers from other states have come away from their visits with a template for how to launch post-election reviews in their own states.
In announcing his audit strategy Wednesday, Mastriano went on a media tour of right-wing news hosts, including one who was broadcasting outside of Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“I do have the power, if I get a majority vote in the Senate, to go forward with subpoenas and force compliance,” Mastriano said in the interview with the John Fredericks Show, though he acknowledged that a court fight would likely ensue.
As for Pennsylvania Democrats, they criticized Mastriano’s audit push as little more than another political play to win support from the former President.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to appease the disgruntled supporters of former President Donald Trump and serve as a campaign vehicle for Senator Mastriano to advance his run for Governor,” Jay Costa, the state Senate Democratic leader, and state Senate Democratic Whip Anthony H. Williams wrote in a letter to Republican state Senate leadership, imploring them to put a stop to Mastriano’s efforts.