Joe Biden’s presidential victory in Pennsylvania had been certified for weeks when officials in some Republican-leaning counties began receiving strange phone calls from GOP state senators in late December.
The lawmakers, who had been publicly questioning Biden’s win, had a request: Would the counties agree to a voluntary audit of their ballots?
The push to conduct unofficial election audits in multiple counties, described in interviews and emails obtained by The Washington Post, served as a last-ditch effort by allies of former president Donald Trump to undercut Biden’s win after failing in the courts and the state legislature.
The previously unreported lobbying foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities across the country as Trump supporters clamor for reviews of the ballots cast last fall, citing false claims that the vote was corrupted by fraud. The former president’s backers argue that any evidence of problems they can uncover will prove the election system is vulnerable — and could have been manipulated to help Biden win.
The audits are being pushed by a loose affiliation of GOP lawmakers, lawyers and self-described election experts, backed by private fundraising campaigns whose donors are unknown.
In Pennsylvania, the state senators quietly targeted at least three small counties, all of which Trump had won handily. Their proposal was unorthodox: to have a private company scrutinize the county’s ballots, for free — a move outside the official processes used for election challenges.
Only one county is known to have agreed to the senators’ request: rural Fulton County, on the Maryland border, where Trump performed better than anywhere else in the state, winning nearly 86 percent of the roughly 8,000 votes cast.
“I think they thought this was just a small, friendly area. If they could get away with it, they could raise questions about the legitimacy of the election,” said Dayton Tweedy, 60, a teacher in Fulton who, with his wife, Kimbra, spent months trying to learn more about how the audit was conducted in his community — and why.