I have received many calls, emails and messages from Pennsylvania residents (and non-residents alike) who have voiced concerns about the fairness of our elections and have called for an election audit. At first blush, an audit sounds like a good idea, but after any reasoned thought into the ramifications such an undertaking may trigger, this will not be a productive undertaking.
As the stage is being set, every move associated with an audit is going to be met with, or require, court action. The three counties targeted for an audit (Philadelphia, York and Tioga counties) have clearly indicated that they will not release any records or machines for the purposes of an audit. If subpoenas are issued, they will surely be challenged. Knowing a little about our court system, my estimate is that it will be 3-5 years before there is anything close to a resolution. Any lawyer with minimal skills can accomplish that sort of delay by raising and appealing every possible issue. In addition, election law litigation will generate questions which have never been addressed under Pennsylvania law. And let’s not forget that Republicans have not won a court case against the Wolf administration in over two years.
Moreover, the Wolf administration will undoubtedly spend taxpayer money protecting what they will term “the integrity of the system.” Legal services for the only audit proposal are based on donations and pro bono services. The outcome of that scenario is not favorable to a quick and productive audit. The idea of pursuing legal action involving state issues funded by private donations raises a whole new set of legal questions standing alone.
Many of the emails I receive want an audit because the sender fully believes that Donald Trump will somehow be reinstated as President. That is the underlying rationale for many who support an audit. Unless there is a coup, which is not going to happen in the United States, the 2020 election is over. Biden is the President. An audit is not going to change that fact irrespective of the outcome. Sometimes losing is the result of a bad call. How many sporting events have been lost by a bad call? When these problems arise the focus is: How do we prevent this from happening again? What can we fix? We don’t go back and replay the game. No one likes losing, but, if we are on that side, we can be civil and respectful.
The Election Reform Bill (House Bill 1300), which was passed by the legislature earlier this year, was oriented toward fixing the problems as found by the state House of Representatives and Senate committees that gathered information from voter’s services offices across the state. This was done through several public hearings. Unfortunately, Governor Wolf vetoed House Bill 1300, mainly because the bill had a provision mandating a voter ID. There is some indication he may be willing to reconsider some of the issues. Figuring out a way around his veto seems to be a course, which could produce tangible results for the next election coming in just a couple of months.
Compromise is a word never heard in Washington and rarely heard in Harrisburg. If we are truly interested in resolving real election issues identified by the frontline workers, exploring compromise could be productive. And, what is the downside? A delay of a few months to explore compromise is just not significant when faced with a 3-5 year legal battle with an uncertain outcome.
Much has been said about the unconstitutionality of actions by Wolf’s cabinet members during the election, including former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. I agree, but I don’t see how an audit addresses those issues. I will leave the question of how to address those matters to our Senate legal team.