Pennsylvania Republicans are pushing to create a new office to oversee election audits in the latest push to address doubts sown by former President Trump and his supporters about the integrity of last year’s elections.
The state House of Representatives has approved a budget that would allocate an additional $3.1 million to the state auditor general to create a new Bureau of Election Audits.
In a statement announcing the proposal, state House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R) said the new office was meant to underscore the integrity of future elections — not to review past election results.
“Even a shred of uncertainty in the results of our elections is enough to shake the bedrock of what we stand for in this country,” Cutler said. “We must make strides to grow trust in our processes, and a thorough, independent audit of every election in our Commonwealth is a step toward ensuring the public’s trust.”
Cutler did not address the root of any lingering uncertainty: The former president’s constant and baseless allegations of unspecified fraud or irregularities, both in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
President Biden carried Pennsylvania by more than 70,000 votes in 2020, or just over 1 percentage point, both wider margins than those by which Trump carried the commonwealth in 2016.
But Trump has pressured Pennsylvania’s Senate Republican leaders to conduct a forensic audit similar to one ordered by Arizona’s Republican state Senate. In statements, he has repeatedly bashed Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman (R), who has declined to order an audit.
Democrats in Pennsylvania say the new office is another avenue by which state Republicans are working to raise doubts about the integrity of the vote.
“This is another attempt by our Republican majorities to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election,” said state Rep. Matt Bradford, the top Democrat on the House Government Oversight Committee. “The party of Trump seems to be committed to a voter suppression platform.”
Cutler was among the top Pennsylvania Republicans who signed a letter in December urging Congress to block the state’s presidential electors.
The House-passed budget does not include language specifically authorizing the election audit office, but the added money will allow Auditor General Tim DeFoor (R) to create an office as he sees fit, a spokesman for Cutler said in an email. The state House is still considering two separate bills to define the office and grant it authority to look into elections, and to guarantee that all Pennsylvania counties conduct elections under uniform rules.
But it is unlikely DeFoor’s office will ultimately see the extra money: Bradford said he and other Democrats are urging Gov. Tom Wolf (D) to use his line-item veto power to nix the provision.
While other states have embarked on massive overhauls of election rules, Wolf’s veto pen has blocked Republican efforts in Pennsylvania. The state House last week approved an omnibus measure creating new voter identification requirements, signature verification on mail-in ballots and limiting the number of drop boxes a county can provide.
Wolf has said he opposes the bill. In fiery remarks, he alluded to the letter Cutler and other top Pennsylvania Republicans signed urging Congress to void the commonwealth’s electoral votes.
“Pennsylvania already has secure elections, but bad faith actors are spreading lies and disinformation. And now those same people who spread those lies and encouraged the mob that attacked the Capitol are attacking the freedom to vote,” Wolf said at a press conference last week. “I will not be lectured on the importune of election integrity by the same people who wrote a letter begging Congress to throw out Pennsylvanians’ lawfully cast votes only a few months ago.”