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Jake Corman, the Pa. Senate Republican leader, on the election, voter fraud claims, and who won the presidency

“My opinion is that we need to be patient and allow the process — the constitutional process that been laid out for us — to unfold,” said the new leader of Senate Republicans in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman in the Senate chambers Jan. 15, 2019, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman in the Senate chambers Jan. 15, 2019, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg.Read moreMatt Rourke / AP File

Last week, Republican legislators elected Sen. Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) to the position of Senate President Pro Tempore, elevating him to the chief institutional role in that chamber.

On Election Day, Corman and current Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) called for Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to resign over what they called her “blatant disregard for the legislative process and the law” because of election decisions she had made over the eligibility of ballots. Senate Republicans last week announced a review of the election.

The Inquirer interviewed Corman this week to discuss the election, the role of the legislature, and what the future holds. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and space.

Do you believe that we know who the winner is, and who won the presidential election in Pennsylvania?

I believe we’re in a constitutional process. The constitutional process is that we have a count which hasn’t been completed as of yet. And then after that, obviously, the secretary of state will certify a winner.

In the meantime, any candidate, whether it be for president or for the state legislative seats, has the ability to go through court challenges, as we’re seeing in some state legislative races. So obviously President Trump believes he has some issues with how the election was conducted. He’s got the right to go through this process. And we’ll go through it.

How do you square that with the projections from the AP, the various decision desks?

All due respect to the media, last time I checked my Constitution, they don’t declare the winner. Ultimately, the secretary of state will declare the winner. And we’re going through that process right now, to count the votes.

Now, when it comes to the election itself, there’s obviously a lot of noise about fraud and rigging and this and that. Do you think the election was rigged? Do you think there was mass fraud?

Look, I’m not part of the campaign or part of Republican state committee, so I can’t give you what happened on the ground at different places. We are investigating currently an issue in the City of Chester, where apparently there were more votes than there were people who signed the book, in some precincts there. Now, maybe there’s a reasonable explanation for that, I don’t know. But certainly it’s a curious thing to at least look into.

» READ MORE: Joe Biden won 3 of every 4 mail ballots in Pennsylvania. Trump won 2 of 3 votes cast in person. What does that mean for the future?

But my role is more from the legislative oversight. And so, you know, that’s the campaigns’ role if they want to say there was fraud and make their case where that fraud was. … Obviously, this was probably the most volatile election there has ever been in our lifetime, at least my lifetime, and there’s a lot of passion on both sides. And so what we needed was faith in the system that no matter who is the winner, whether it was Joe Biden and whether it’s Donald Trump, that people believe the results. But because Secretary Boockvar did a lot of different things and knocked down some of the security measures that we have in our election, she at least cast doubt …

The fact that she came out with different interpretations at the last second to count ballots that weren’t supposed to be counted, to allow counties to correct ballots that weren’t allowed to be corrected, to take away signature verification. You know, I don’t know that there’s enough there, and I’m not suggesting that there is, to change the results of what you’ve seen so far.

And again, the point is, all that she did, she’s made it look like she was trying to tip the scales in one direction. And that’s not her job as Secretary of State, her job as Secretary of State is to administer the elections in a free and fair way.

But as the leader of the Senate, your personal position does matter. And the signals and messages you send, including to the Republican supporters that you have, do matter. Do you personally believe that the results are in question?

My opinion is that we need to be patient and allow the process — the constitutional process that has been laid out for us — to unfold.

It doesn’t matter what I think today. You know, it could be court cases, haven’t been heard as of yet. Or they’re in the process. And so when a candidate challenges, they have to come forward with proof, right? And they have to do that, and if there’s enough proof there that shows that, you know, some results should be questioned or changed, then you know, that’s a court process. And then we can all render our opinion after that’s concluded. … So I’m just asking everyone to be patient, allow it to unfold, and a winner will be declared. And I’m not even sure that Pennsylvania even matters at this point.

Tell me about the state legislature’s role with regard to the rest of the process. There are a lot of people worried about some sort of overturning of results.

The electors are selected by the winner of the popular vote. That is in our state statute. The only way, I think — and I’m still not even sure we could do it — the only way the legislature would have a role in electors is if there was no certification of the results. If we were at the time when the Electoral College is going to meet and Pennsylvania’s results haven’t been certified and it’s still challenged in court, and there’s no end to that, then possibly the legislature would have a role there.

» READ MORE: Trump ups the ante in his Pa. court fight, asking a judge to upend the state’s Electoral College selection process

But I’ve never suggested that we would do anything but what the law states. The law states that when the Secretary of State certifies the election, the governor appoints the electors. That’s the law. And we will follow the law.

Tell me about this review. Is it some sort of investigation to do something with the current election? Is it about future policymaking?

It’s more of an audit than it is anything else. And that audit, is just to review, hopefully get some independent group to come in. I think that’s the goal. Just as we audited the primary, it was the first time we had mail-in votes.

The audit will either — A, give us some ideas about the future elections — or B, maybe show some problems in this one. But clearly, we’re somewhat constrained because Nov. 30 is the end of the legislative session. And so, you know, the committee can’t operate in December. So they’re going to try to get to it as quickly as they can.

The concern I’ve heard is this is an attempt to interfere with this election, with the certification of results, with the choosing of electors.

Where the secretary has brought a cloud over our election on all her actions, this is an attempt to remove that cloud. The results will be what the results will be. … We just want to make sure that everything was done correctly. And if everything was done correctly, then, you know, the results will speak for themselves.

Is there a way in which even engaging in these kinds of audits and this kind of questioning creates some of that doubt with voters and the public?

No, I mean, look, you can put your head in the sand and pretend like nothing happened, or you can, you know, review and learn. My phone’s been ringing off the hook about the election results. And so the best way to have faith in the results is to have clarity. And so by doing these types of reviews, doing these types of audits brings clarity … And I think that’s the best thing we can do. So that again, no matter who’s declared the winner, if indeed it is Joe Biden, or if it’s not, then people will have faith in the results. That’s all we’re trying to bring to the system, the process.

And do you think that’ll work?

I hope.