A full vote on the resolution to create a GOP-controlled elections committee could take place as early as Thursday.
On Wednesday, Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania moved forward with a plan to create a partisan elections committee that would oversee the results of November's presidential election in the state.
If passed, the resolution would create a "select committee on election integrity" comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats. The committee would wield broad powers to investigate election disputes in Pennsylvania — a key swing state — including the power to subpoena elections officials and U.S. postal workers before all the votes are counted.
While the committee would not have the ability to change election laws outright, the power afforded to the new committee under H.R. 1032 would allow Republicans to sow confusion about the election results in a state that some believe could be the deciding factor for the presidential election.
This move by Pennsylvania Republicans comes after Donald Trump's repeated attempts to spread doubt and paranoia among his supporters about election security and voter fraud — especially in U.S. cities, which tend to skew Democratic.
On Tuesday, a group of Trump campaign officials were barred from entering a satellite election office in Philadelphia, on the grounds that they were not certified poll watchers.
Later that day, the president appeared to admonish Philadelphia elections officials from the debate stage. "Bad things happen in Philadelphia," Trump said during Tuesday night's presidential debate.
The statement prompted an outcry from the city's residents. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced the city is developing an inter-agency plan to combat people who may attempt to intimidate voters and cause chaos on Election Day.
"People are simply not allowed to stand around there and intimidate people," Kenney told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In response, Trump has renewed his call for supporters to intervene in the election, and claimed without evidence that "tens of thousands" of ballots could be "manipulated" in the election.
"I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that is what needs to happen, I am urging them to do it," Trump said on Tuesday. "I hope it’s going to be a fair election, and if it’s a fair election, I am 100 percent on board, but if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that."
Trump is clearly worried about his chances of winning Pennsylvania in a free and fair election. Last week, he falsely claimed that eight ballots casting votes for Trump had been "thrown in a garbage can."
"We have to be very careful with the ballots," Trump told reporters last week. "The ballots, that’s a whole big scam. They found, I understand, eight ballots in a wastepaper basket in some location ... We want to make sure the election is honest and I’m not sure that it can be. I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation, unsolicited ballots. They’re unsolicited, millions being sent to everybody.”
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released a statement condemning Republicans' efforts to create what he says is a partisan committee intended to ensure Trump wins the state.
"The House Republicans are not only walking in lockstep with President Trump to try to sow chaos and put the results of the election in question, they are also taking steps to take the authority to administer elections away from the Department of State," Wolf said in the statement. "This is an unprecedented attack on nonpartisan election administrators at a time when we should all be doing everything we can to instill confidence in our elections."
A full vote on the resolution could take place as early as Thursday.
This latest move isn't the first time Republicans have attempt to thwart Democrats in the Pennsylvania. House Republicans have repeatedly used legislative means to undercut Wolf, most recently by trying to strip him of the emergency powers granted by the state's emergency COVID-19 disaster declaration.
"The House Select Committee on Election Integrity sounds like a dystopian anti-democratic fantasy, but the @PAHouseGOP is bringing it to reality right now," Brittany Crampsie, the press secretary for the Pennsylvania Senate Democrats, tweeted on Wednesday.
Crampsie also pointed out that every member of Pennsylvania's House of Representatives is up for reelection this year, meaning that the newly formed committee could play a decisive role in the outcome of state elections in addition to the presidential election.
Wolf said the GOP won't be able to stop Pennsylvanians from casting their ballots in November, and for those votes to be counted safely.
"Despite the best efforts of the House Republicans, Pennsylvania will administer our elections safely and securely," Wolf said. "We will stand up to House Republicans' partisan efforts to interfere in our elections to benefit themselves and their political schemes."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.