“Trump’s Battle to Undermine the Vote in Pennsylvania”

The New Yorker’s Eliza Griswold takes a detailed look at the state legislative politics in PA over whether to conduct an audit of the presidential election. That effort appears to have fizzled out, at least for now:

Since November 3rd, Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democratic state representative from Philadelphia, has received a stream of threatening text messages and e-mails from voters. “You must not certify the fraudulent results of this election until all LEGAL ballots are counted,” Steven P. wrote to Kenyatta. “If you do, I will work tirelessly to make sure you are not reelected.” Kenyatta has also received death threats; the most disturbing, sent from an e-mail account registered in his own name, was laden with expletives and included the words, “How much death? So much death!” Kenyatta, who is thirty, with a baby face, believes that the threats are a by-product of a near-constant campaign waged by Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues to undermine the results of a free and fair election. “There is a contingent of Republicans who are afraid of Trump,” he told me. “Others really believe him.”…

The audit was to be overseen by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, and would scrutinize thousands of ballots, county by county. It would focus especially on claims that Pennsylvania’s secretary of state had created procedural inconsistencies in voting between counties, which Republicans argued could mean that thousands of votes in the state were unconstitutional. The effort could no longer stop certification; the governor announced that the Pennsylvania Department of State had certified Pennsylvania’s vote on Tuesday. But the audit seemed designed to cast doubt on the process and sow confusion, and perhaps to retroactively challenge the certification. “Claims that aren’t based in reality don’t deserve investigation,” Kenyatta told me. “What’s troubling is the strategic decision to bring them forward in the first place.”…

On November 19th, the resolution to begin the audit came to the House floor and passed 112–90. Kenyatta spoke out vehemently. “I told my colleagues that this constant drumbeat supporting what Trump is saying on Twitter has a corrosive effect on our democracy,” he told me. “Now every election—from school board to tax collector—now people who don’t win get to cry foul.” After the vote, Kenyatta worked with the organization OnePA on voter-protection efforts, to lead a grassroots campaign against the resolution. Support in Harrisburg seemed to be wavering. Grove told me that the White House scheduled a call between Republican legislators and Trump, though it never took place.

The last step required to approve the audit was a vote from the leadership of the Legislative Budget Finance Committee. The vote is typically a rubber stamp: the committee is charged with scores of audits each year, and it has not refused to comply in recent memory. But, during a hearing, its two Democratic leaders spoke against the resolution. “I’m at a loss as to what, what the purpose of the resolution is and why it’s even necessary,” Senator Jim Brewster, one of the leaders, said. The other, Representative Jake Wheatley, Jr., questioned whether the committee even had the authority to perform such an investigation, and called it a “wasted effort.” “I really suggest we put this to bed,” he said. The resolution failed, in a 2–1 vote. (One of the two Republican leaders was absent, though even a tie would have stopped the audit.)

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