Nine months after the election and six months after the U.S. Capitol riot their rhetoric inspired, many Republicans are still clinging to the Big Lie, including in Pennsylvania.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano last week announced yet another attempt to relitigate the 2020 presidential election, arguing that somehow, through an additional audit, he will uncover evidence that election boards, the Pennsylvania Department of State, the FBI, the Attorney General’s Office, and former U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain have tried and failed to discover.
The proposed election audit, inspired by the chaotic undertakings in Arizona, asks for all election materials to be sent to State Sen. Mastriano for a “forensic audit” of the results. Not just ballots, but ballot applications, voter registration system terminals, voting machines, and poll books. It even goes as far as to request logins for the state’s voter registration database from employees. It would be expensive and time-consuming. Mastriano’s office currently doesn’t even have a plan for where to put all this paperwork and equipment if the counties comply.
This audit isn’t actually aimed at uncovering the truth about the 2020 election, nor is it capable of finding nonexistent fraud or proving that Donald Trump is the real winner of the election.
The point seems to be jockeying for position in next year’s crowded Republican gubernatorial primary. Even the supposed goal of delivering the audit, an unlikely prospect, takes a back seat to fighting for the audit, something that most of Mastriano’s competitors, who don’t have access to subpoena powers, can’t do.
This points to one of the most pernicious aspects of the Big Lie: the way that it traps our political debate in November forever. Constantly fighting for one more audit and one more batch of secret revelations means people never have to accept the truth — that President Joe Biden fairly won the election — because there’s always new revelations coming if you wait. The constant drumbeat also helps justify new and unnecessary restrictions on voting.
That’s why it is so important that this effort is rejected quickly and firmly. Not just by Democrats and the few Republicans who have consistently opposed this rhetoric from the start, but by senior Republicans in Harrisburg, and Mastriano’s colleagues on the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee. Harrisburg Republicans claim that their phones are ringing off the hook with constituents upset about the election and concerned about fraud, which they use to justify their support of wasteful audits. These calls will never end if Republicans continue to give them credence.
Instead of catering to voter fraud claims, Harrisburg Republicans need to stand up for the integrity of our elections, the work of our election administrators, and the rights of our voters. It is time for GOP leaders to finally deal with this decisively, and prove that they are still a political party with a vision for Pennsylvania — and not a tribute band obsessed with finding the unfindable — by rejecting this audit and any subpoenas meant to enable it.
American democracy cannot function if one party spends its energy on conspiracies instead of governing. It is up to Republicans to get their party back on track.