PA leaders weigh in on Congressional fight

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) bows his head as Republicans applaud him and Senator Paul Gosar (R-AZ) objecting to Arizona's votes during a joint session to certify the 2020 election results, inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Jan. 6.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Gov. Tom Wolf and election officials characterized attempts to overturn Pennsylvania’s election results as a threat to democracy, minutes before legislators gathered Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol to certify President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Eight of the state’s nine Republican Congressmen have vowed to object when Congress considers Pennsylvania’s Electoral College results, citing procedural changes that they believe to be illegal.

“They are purposely spreading disinformation about our elections for personal political gain,” Wolf said during a virtual press briefing. “That’s shameful and that’s destructive.”

President Donald Trump has refused to concede and has continued to claim that he lost Pennsylvania and other swing states due to massive fraud.

“If that were true, this has gone through now months of court cases, it has been challenged, where’s the evidence?” Wolf said. “What is it that is wrong here?”

Trump’s campaign and supporters have filed a litany of lawsuits in the state and elsewhere. Evidence of voter fraud did not surface in the courts, and nearly all of the legal actions have been unsuccessful.

Wednesday’s push in Congress is viewed as the president’s last-gasp effort to remain in office.

At one point in Wolf’s news conference, the governor quoted Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg, ending with, “Government of the people, by the people and for the people has really taken a hit.”

Wolf, state Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, and City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the only GOP member of Philadelphia’s three-person election board, sought to reassure voters that the election was conducted freely and fairly.

Schmidt called it “the most transparent and secure election in the history of our city,” noting that the counting process was open to observers from both parties and live-streamed.

New voting machines that were rolled out last year ensure each vote has a paper ballot, and, Schmidt said, there wasn’t a single challenge on the basis of a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot.

In the days following the election, he was personally targeted by President Donald Trump, who referred to him as a RINO, or Republican-in-name-only, on Twitter.

Boockvar certified the state’s results in November, showing Biden with a 80,555-vote advantage, a significantly larger margin than Trump’s Pennsylvania victory in 2016.

“With everything our country and commonwealth has faced this year, we are reminded more than ever why we must fight any effort to undermine our great democracy,” Boockvar said Wednesday.

All 20 of the state’s Electoral College votes were awarded to Biden, and the former vice president beat Trump 306-232 in electoral votes.

The Congressional certification proceedings in Washington, D.C., are normally strictly procedural, but it’s expected that frequent challenges — an objection sparks a two-hour debate for each contested state — could continue long into the night.

Protesters disrupted the process, breaching the walls of the Capitol Building and forcing a lockdown.

In their statement, Pennsylvania’s GOP House delegation accused the Wolf administration of overstepping the state legislature. It pointed to guidelines issued by Boockvar, including allowing the use of ballot drop boxes and accepting mail-in votes that arrived after 8 p.m.

The only Republican representative from the state who did not sign onto the statement was U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, whose district covers Bucks County.

Another GOP member who is not backing the move to block Biden’s certification is U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who issued a strong rebuke to the effort.

“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders,” he said. “The effort by Senators Hawley, Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”

Biden is due to be sworn-in Jan. 20.

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