Philadelphia’s top election official said a “forensic investigation” into the 2020 presidential race being pursued by a Trump-friendly state lawmaker would cost the city more than $35 million and potentially delay two upcoming elections.
The City Commissioners, who oversee elections in Philadelphia, will not comply with a request from state Sen. Doug Mastriano to hand over voting equipment, records and security access from the last two elections.
Mastriano, who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally at the Capitol, has threatened to subpoena information from counties that do not participate in his probe.
In a letter sent to Mastriano on Friday, City Commissioner Chairwoman Lisa Deeley noted that the investigation would lead to massive expenses for the city, since the state would likely decertify Philadelphia’s voting machines.
The Pennsylvania Department of State pulled certification from Fulton County’s election system following a similar probe, also involving Mastriano. It has told local officials not to turn over any balloting software or electronics to a third party.
Senate GOP leaders in Harrisburg characterized the move against Fulton County as “aggressive” and part of “a pattern of rogue decisions.”
Philadelphia rolled out new ballot machines in 2019 after Gov. Tom Wolf required all counties to implement technology that included a paper trail.
Replacing the city’s voting system would likely take more than a year, making it impossible to hold this year’s general and next year’s primary elections, Deeley said in her letter.
Moreover, she said, Mastriano’s review would be “duplicative,” as the city’s results have already undergone a state-mandated risk-limiting audit, court challenges and other reviews.
There is no basis “to jeopardize the constitutionally mandated secrecy of the votes cast by city of Philadelphia residents, to expose the taxpayers of the city to tens of million of dollars in additional and unanticipated expenses, or to risk the very ability of Philadelphians to cast ballots in future elections if Philadelphia’s system was decertified.”
Mastriano’s office did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.
In Tioga County, one of the other jurisdictions singled out by Mastriano’s probe, Republican election officials who also did not comply with his requests were subject to social media threats, leading to beefed-up security, Reuters reported last week.
All three of Philadelphia’s City Commissioners voted to not participate in the investigation, including Republican Al Schmidt, who was targeted by Trump in the days following the 2020 election.
“We have an obligation to protect the custody of all of our voting equipment and will not give that equipment to a third party, especially as it will result in its decertification,” he tweeted.