York County Republican state Rep. Seth Grove, the acting chairman of the House State Government Committee, on Friday defended his push for a legislative audit of the general election and questioned why a voting systems supplier pulled out of its appearance before his committee.
“My job is to figure out what happened and how we do it better,” Grove told the USA TODAY Network following a press conference in Harrisburg during which he called out Dominion Voting Systems officials for canceling an appearance before the State Government Committee.
“If they have nothing to hide, why are they hiding from us?” Grove said during the press conference.
Dominion voting equipment is used by 1.3 million voters in 14 Pennsylvania counties: York, Erie, Montgomery, Bedford, Armstrong, Carbon, Crawford, Clarion, Fayette, Luzerne, Fulton, Jefferson, Pike and Warren.
President Donald Trump has targeted Dominion and accused it of helping President-elect Joe Biden win Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, Bloomberg.com reported.
Dominion has a statement on its website addressing rumors and accusations, as well as noting that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) found no evidence of lost or deleted votes and called the election “the most secure in American history.”
Christopher Krebs, the director of CISA during the election, was fired by Trump via a Twitter post on Nov. 17.
Grove insisted on Friday that Dominion could have put any allegations to rest by meeting with his committee. “I’m really mad and frustrated we couldn’t,” he said.
“I want it off the table so we can focus on the actual election process administration and laws of the commonwealth,” Grove said. “That’s my focus. I can’t get there with all this other noise and sound out there.”
Dominion, Grove said, cited potential litigation as a reason for not making officials available, an answer he deemed “unacceptable.” Now, Grove said, he will simply plan on Dominion officials coming to the State Government Committee when the new legislative session starts in January.
“We’re going to follow-up with them. They know I’m not happy,” he said. “I’m going to make an offer again to bring them back and they’d better be ready.”
On Thursday, Grove saw the House, in a mostly party-line vote, pass House Resolution 1100, which would direct the bicameral and bipartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a risk-limiting audit of the election.
With Trump’s campaign still battling in the courts over Pennsylvania’s election results and some Republicans continuing to level evidence-free fraud allegations, the move for a separate audit has caused Democrats to decry the effort as just another attempt to undermine Biden’s victory.
State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, the minority chairman of the State Government Committee, blasted House Republicans on Nov. 10 after they called for a committee with subpoena power to audit the election.
“If you want to ensure that the election process here in Pennsylvania is fair and free, you can start by not sowing doubt and discord without evidence of any wrongdoing,” Boyle said.
During the debate on Thursday over the resolution, Boyle said, “This resolution must not in any way delay certification of the presidential election by Dec. 8. If it did, I would view it as a complete attack on democracy here in Pennsylvania.”
Grove, though, said he merely wants to examine the election process, including the curing of ballots and an incident in Allegheny County where a vendor mailed out 29,000 incorrect mail-in ballots to voters, forcing the county to process them separately.
“I don’t have the power to change anything in the election,” Grove said. “I can’t do anything, but I can, moving forward, make sure we have a better process for our residents.”
Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said that post-election audits “are already standard practice for the administration,” including risk-limiting audits using statistical methods “to confirm whether reported election outcomes are correct and to detect possible interference.”
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Murren said that 26 counties have completed the first phase of the pilot risk-limiting audit to be reviewed by national “leading experts” from VotingWorks, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, and the Verified Voting Foundation.
Drawing a clear distinction, Murren said that the audits involve “experienced professionals” at the state department and county offices. “The Legislative Budget Finance Committee has no expertise or role in election administration, and it is inappropriate to pretend it does,” she said.
“Allegations of fraud and illegal activity have been repeatedly debunked and dismissed by the courts,” Murren said. “Those attacks against the core values of Americans are intended to undermine our democracy, and we must reject them.”
But, Grove responded that the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee is bipartisan and, unlike the Department of State, has “no stake” in the election results. “I don’t know what’s more independent than that,” he said.
Grove said he wants to work with the Department of State to address any issues. “I don’t know why they don’t want to,” he said. “That’s questionable.”
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