Senate Committee Investigating Pa. Election Holds Ballot Box Hearing, Democrats Walk Out

“The Democrats will not participate in a kangaroo operation that is put in place without prior bipartisan conversation, as is the case with all the hearings we do in this body,” shouted Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, then that the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee sat at ease on Thursday.

Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who chairs the Republican-controlled panel, briefly adjourned the hearing – publicly advertised as a ballot box meeting – after Hughes addressed a series of questions to the chairman of the county’s Republican committee. from Lehigh, Joseph Vichot, about a video. showing an individual placing a handful of papers in a drop box in Lehigh County.

Vichot, joined by three other panelists, did not take an oath to swear his remarks were true despite demands from Hughes and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, that Dush swear to the panelists – a practice typical in legislative hearings.

“Without taking an oath, it calls into question the veracity of the truth,” Hughes, who repeatedly lambasted the GOP-initiated election investigation, told the Capital-Star after leaving the meeting.

Hughes left about an hour after Costa urged his colleagues to leave the meeting, which he described as a “waste” of taxpayers’ money. Costa added that the “insane number of hearings” the General Assembly has conducted since the 2020 elections to “substantiate erroneous allegations of fraud [is] incalculable.”

“It’s a charade,” said Costa, who joined from a distance. “You’re looking at evidence that’s ridiculously put together by your team, your people.”

The senses. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, and Steven Santarsiero, D-Bucks, did not attend the meeting.

Republican Butler County Commissioner Leslie Osche, Republican Luzerne County Elections Judge Jessica Morgan, and John Lott, a conservative who is now president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, also made remarks on Thursday without swear.

All of the Conservative panelists expressed their frustration with the ballot box.

Hughes said members of the Democratic committee had no time to prepare for Thursday’s hearing or invite attendees to speak at the ballot box.

Efforts to review past elections come after former President Donald Trump and his allies launched a months-long campaign to promote baseless allegations of voter fraud and voter misconduct to justify his loss to the current president. Joe Biden, who won in Pennsylvania by 80,555 votes.

Legal challenges to the results failed in court and two post-election audits conducted in Pennsylvania after the presidential election found no evidence of fraud.

Democrats have called Pennsylvania’s election review a “sham.” They also expressed concerns about the senses. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin and Judy Ward, R-Blair, serving on the committee because of their ties to a third-party election review in Fulton County that prompted the State Department to decertify the county’s voting machines .

Earlier this year, Mastriano, a Trump ally who funded a bus trip to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, also received a subpoena from the US House committee investigating the Capitol riot. .

In June, Mastriano launched a so-called “forensic investigationof the 2020 election and made an extensive request for election equipment and information for voters in Philadelphia, York and Tioga counties.

Since Dush replaced Mastriano as chair of the committee in AugustThe panel issued a legislative subpoena for millions of voters’ driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers as part of the taxpayer-funded review.

The legal request is stalled in court, with Legislative Democrats and Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro challenging the subpoena.

The Senate Republican Caucus also entered into a contractual agreement with Envoy Sage, LLC, an Iowa-based company, to help conduct the election review. Democrats also expressed concerns about the company’s credentials and security policies.

Dush said Republican members of the committee were unaware of the hearing “until about two days ago.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Dush defended his decision not to swear in meeting attendees, saying, “I wanted it to be more informative and smooth in the flow of the discussion. I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t have that kind of cooperation. My witnesses were ready to answer all questions.

In September, Fulton County Commissioner Stuart Ulsh, a Republican, appeared before the panel to testify about election guidelines released ahead of the 2020 general election. He was sworn in before delivering a prepared statement and answering questions from committee members.

In the weeks and months following the fall hearing, lawmakers and government watchdogs raised concerns about inconsistencies in Ulsh’s testimony. Text messages obtained by the Capital-Star and other news outlets through open record requests contradict Ulsh’s statements.

Dush added that the Senate committee received a letter and sworn affidavit to clarify Ulsh’s testimony. The documents will be added to the committee’s records, Dush told reporters.

“We have to be able to tell the whole story… my actions show the intent that I want this to be a non-partisan thing because I just want the facts,” Dush said, adding that he was willing to. discuss election integrity measures with opposing parties. .

In a statement released after the meeting, Dush said it was “misleading” to imply that the panelists’ remarks were “other than genuine and true.” He described the Democrats’ actions as “unproductive and dramatic.”

“But it was incredibly disrespectful to the witnesses who want nothing more than to help this committee work to ensure the integrity of the election,” Dush said.

This article first appeared in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, part of the States Newsroom network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor-in-Chief John Micek with any questions: [email protected] Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

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