Mail-in Voting

‘We Like to Work': Pa. Republicans Grill State's Election Chief in 1st of 14 Hearings

Pennsylvania's secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, and her top deputy took questions for more than two hours as Republican lawmakers began a long look at last year's elections

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Pennsylvania's top election official and her deputy defended on Thursday the state's elections in 2020 at the first of many scheduled hearings to be held by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania legislature on the issue.

"I am incredibly proud with the free, fair and accurate elections we carried out," Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in an opening statement. "Let’s acknowledge the truth and stop repeating the lies that have been proven false."

For the next two hours, numerous Republicans on the House State Government Committee questioned Boockvar on the guidance and directives issued by Boockvar's State Department to 67 counties about management of, and legal issues leading up to, the elections last year.

Committee Chairman Seth Grove, Republican of York County, said the goal of the first hearing and the next 13 weeks of hearings is to "review the entire election law."

"This is not about 2020. This is not about 2019. This is about moving forward and that we have the best product available to our constituents moving forward," Grove said.

He noted that the hearings were in his view not to be used to "relitigate the election," but to "ascertain the necessity for changes" where confusion and ambiguity exists in the election code.

In late 2019, only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the GOP-controlled legislature pushed through universal mail-in balloting in Pennsylvania. It was the biggest overhaul to the state's election law in 70 years.

Boockvar, who is a Democrat, and Democratic lawmakers on the committee used their time at the hearing to defend what they described as a "fair, free and accurate" election both in the primary last June and the general in November.

Pennsylvania for months was at the center of an effort led by former President Donald Trump, and prodded on through lawsuits by Republicans in the state, to subvert the outcome of the presidential election.

There was no evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania so far, experts say, even after a legion of Trump campaign lawyers scoured the state's election offices for weeks.

President Donald Trump’s campaign is withdrawing a central part of its lawsuit seeking to stop the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania. Democrat Joe Biden captured the state to help win the White House.

Trump lost Pennsylvania by more than 78,000 votes, double the number by which Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. Yet Trump never conceded to President Joe Biden. Clinton conceded to Trump the day after the 2016 election.

Numerous lawsuits were filed by Trump and his supporters, including U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican representing a district in western Pennsylvania, to try to overturn Pennsylvania's results.

While all of the efforts failed, Republican state lawmakers have said the doubt cast on the election led to thousands of constituents calling to question the outcome.

The final failed attempt came the day of the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 when U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley tried to have Pennsylvania's electoral votes thrown out during the certification of the election by Congress.

Grove, the committee chairman who will oversee the 14 weeks of hearings, said that has led to the in-depth inquiry into how Pennsylvania conducts elections and where state law can be improved to shore up confidence among voters.

Democratic state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who sits on the committee, asked Boockvar's deputy, Jonathan Marks if there had ever been so many hearings on election law following an election.

Marks, who said he has been at the State Department for the 18 years, said, "I don’t recall a series of 14 hearings in a single session regarding elections."

Grove chuckled.

"We like to work here," he said.

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