Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state Senate set to spend big on election integrity probe

The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate is preparing to launch an investigation into the state’s 2020 election results amid Democrat opposition and allegations of waste and abuse.

The Associated Press reported Friday that state Senate GOP leaders have agreed upon a contract, the details of which have yet to be announced, between Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R) and Envoy Sage, an Iowa-based firm, to conduct a “forensic investigation” of the election results.

Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee spokesman Jason Thompson told the AP that the public will get to see a redacted version of the contract soon, adding that the contract amount of $270,000 would be paid for through a taxpayer-funded leadership account.

The AP said that the audit won’t rise to the level of what took place in Arizona earlier this year over the course of several months. Nevertheless, the audit comes in response to pressure from GOP supporters of former President Donald Trump, who lost the Keystone State by about 80,000 votes after leading late into the evening on Election Day last year and after winning the state in 2016.

“A related subpoena issued by a GOP-controlled Senate committee, seeking voter data from the executive branch, is currently on hold awaiting a hearing in Commonwealth Court next month,” the AP reported.

In explaining the logic behind the audit, Thompson did not point to Trump’s accusations that he believes the election was “rigged” and “stolen,” only that state Republicans want to know if there are any inherent integrity issues voters should be concerned about.

“The goal is to determine what flaws exist in our election system and to fix them through legislation,” Thompson said.

Meanwhile, Steve Lahr, president of the Iowa firm, noted in a statement that officials within the company do not have “pre-conceived notions for what we will or will not find,” adding that maintaining objectivity is crucial in order for the results to be trusted.

The AP said that initially Lahr admitted to making a political donation to a friend from serving a stint in the military a number of years ago. But he followed that up by informing Pennsylvania Senate leaders he also made donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee and to Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).

However, Thompson said, “I think that it was an honest mistake on his part.”

Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee Chair Cris Dush, a Republican who is leading the audit, said that Envoy Sage is a firm experienced in handling sensitive documents for other governmental entities.

Democrats blasted the audit, noting that initially, majority Republicans said they would not move forward until they heard from the courts.

“They agreed to wait, and then went ahead with hiring their own firm to carry out this political, unnecessary and costly witch hunt,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa in a statement to the AP.

Senate Democrats and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat who is running for Pennsylvania governor next year, have sought to block the GOP-led subpoena.

“They intend to entrust the personal, private data of 9 million Pennsylvanian voters to a company that has been in existence for barely one year and that has no election experience, other than donating to the Republican Party,” Shapiro’s office noted in a statement.

“We still have no information on how they intend to protect voters’ confidential information and what they plan to use it for.”

Trump’s legal team alleged last year following the election that changes made to voting laws by officials other than elected state legislatures, in violation of the Constitution.

“Most of the changes to voting rules were made without the input of legislatures and based on fears of spreading COVID-19. Secretaries of state, governors and state courts approved measures such as dramatically expanding mail-in voting and early balloting, extending deadlines to receive ballots, and relaxing voter identification and verification measures,” BizPac Review reported in March.

“Many of the changes were detailed in a revealing Time magazine report published in early February which described how a ‘cabal of powerful people’ launched a ‘shadow campaign’ that included getting ‘states to change voting systems and laws,’ among other measures,” the outlet added.

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