Rather than address the needs of Pennsylvania workers, small business owners, and families still suffering from the effect of the pandemic, the Republican-led Pennsylvania Senate begins yet another round of hearings about the 2020 election today—an election that most Pennsylvanians believe was settled in January.
It is important to put this hearing in its proper context. We offer six observations.
First, Senator Dush, the chair of the committee, and Senator Corman, the Senate president pro-tempore, have repeatedly said that these hearings are a response to doubts about the probity of the 2020 election. They fail to add is that those doubts have been stirred up again and again by Republican leaders, starting with former President Trump and his disgraced lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and continuing with Republican members of the U.S. House and Pennsylvania House and Senate who have repeated falsehoods that have been discredited by fact-checkers and by both state and federal judges, including those appointed by Republican presidents including Donald Trump.
Senators who say we need hearings to respond to concerns about the election have created are like a man pleading for mercy for killing his parents on the grounds that he is an orphan.
Second, Senators Corman and Dush, along with 19 other Republican senators, called on the U.S. Congress to delay certification of the Electoral College vote which would have prevented the election of Joe Biden as president on January 6, nullifying the vote of Pennsylvanians in the November 2020 election. Sixty-four Republican members of the Pennsylvania House called on Congress to not count Pennsylvania’s electoral votes at all, which would have likely thrown the presidential election to Donald Trump. Whatever complaints they had about the process of carrying out the election in Pennsylvania, no one has ever presented the slightest bit of evidence to show that, even taken together, a different process would have led to a different result. But if Congress had listened to Pennsylvania Republicans, a legitimately elected president would not have been allowed to take office. Thus Republican senators who sit in judgment of the 2020 election today do so with unclean hands and a record that casts doubt on their own commitment to democracy.
If anything about the 2020 election requires investigation and condemnation it is the actions taken of Republican senators and representatives who sought to override the vote of Pennsylvanians in the presidential election.
Third, half of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives were elected under the same rules and procedures under which President Biden won Pennsylvania’s electors. Yet, not once has a Republican senator or representative called their own election into question.
Fourth, the complaints Republicans have made about the election process are unwarranted. They forget that almost all of them voted for Act 77 which established the rules for the 2020 election including those that allowed mail-in ballots. While they claim that early voting at satellite offices and ballot boxes were not sanctioned by Act 77, a plain reading of the law shows that it allows them. Republicans knew, or should have known, that like all laws Act 77 requires the administration to issue regulations to carry out the law and the courts to interpret it. While Republicans may have objected to some regulations and court decisions, it is farcical to say that those decisions were “unlawful.”
Fifth, every decision by the Department of State to which Republicans objected was made with the express purpose of making it easier for Pennsylvanians to vote and to have their vote counted, especially under the difficult conditions created by the pandemic. Republican complaints about the 2020 election are, in effect, complaints about expanding democracy itself.
And sixth, it is thus clear the evident purpose of these hearings is to continue to raise doubts about the 2020 election in order to justify Republican efforts to make voting harder and more difficult, as seen, for example, in HB 1300 which Governor Wolf rightly vetoed and in a constitutional amendment they have proposed in order to institute onerous voter identification procedures.
While it is impossible to take the claims of the Republicans who keep questioning the 2020 election seriously, the Senate hearing today is a very serious matter because it is part of a continuing Republican effort to undermine democracy in our state.