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Pennsylvania Republicans "have been trying to throw sand into the gears of our democracy and now they're standing up this election integrity committee... to investigate the sand," state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta said Thursday. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)

So-Called 'Election Integrity' Panel in Pennsylvania Seen as GOP Trojan Horse to Help Trump Steal Election

State Democratic lawmakers called the situation "a national emergency" and said Republican efforts are a "dangerous threat to democracy."

Andrea Germanos

A so-called "election integrity" panel proposed by Republican lawmakers in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania is being criticized as "a dangerous threat to our democracy" that would further President Donald Trump's efforts to undermine results of the November election.

The proposal, House Resolution 1032, was put forth Monday and advanced Wednesday—a day after the first presidential debate during which Trump continued to sow doubt about election integrity, asserted that "bad things happen in Philadelphia," and encouraged his supporters to engage in poll watching.

A planned vote for Thursday on the measure was cancelled after a Republican House member tested positive for coronavirus.

The panel would be made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, be empowered "to investigate, review, and make recommendations concerning the regulation and conduct of the 2020 general election," and take actions including subpoenaing witnesses and documents.

"As a House resolution," the Associated Press reported, "it does not require approval by the Senate or governor."

According to Democratic Leader state Rep. Frank Dermody, "The wording of the resolution is vague and open-ended, leaving the distinct possibility of steps being taken that would have seemed inconceivable before now. To put it simply this is a dangerous threat to our democracy."

"As this is currently written, it's even possible the committee could try to impound uncounted ballots," Dermody added.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat, spoke to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Thursday evening and outlined his concerns with HR 1032.

For months, said Kenyatta, the Pennsylvania Republicans "have been trying to throw sand into the gears of our democracy and now they're standing up this election integrity committee—that, as I said, has no integrity—to investigate the sand."

"They have parroted all of Trump's fever dreams around voter fraud but here's the reality," Kenyatta said. "The only fraud I see is Donald Trump. He lies to the American people, he cheats on his taxes, and now he's trying to steal an election."

Kenyatta said that Republicans in his state and beyond "are more than happy to destroy our democracy and they have decided... that they're not going to contest this election on policy." Instead, said Kenyatta, "they are doing everything they can to take away the power of our vote here in Pennsylvania to maintain their power."

Governor Tom Wolf, also a Democrat, similarly condemned the proposed resolution as "an unprecedented attack on non-partisan election administrators."

"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 a Wednesday statement.

He further accused state House Republicans of "hypocritically bowing to political pressure to undermine the mail voting that has proven to be a tremendous benefit to Pennsylvanians during the pandemic."

In a letter (pdf) to lawmakers urging them to vote against HR 1032, progressive advocacy group Common Cause said the proposed committee is "ripe for abuse" and that it is crucial to "not politicize Pennsylvania's election administration or cast doubt on the ability of Pennsylvania Department of State and county elections officials to run a safe, secure, and accessible election."

The group wrote, in part:

The scope of powers of this committee are both too vast and too vague to not raise alarm bells, especially when paired with the attacks on the ability of the Department of State to successfully administer our elections. To call into question the position of the Department and its ability to carry out its function properly, serves only to sow doubt and distrust into our elections.

We are also very concerned with the subpoena power that is granted to the chair of the committee. Subpoenas can be useful tools for ensuring transparency in government. However, this resolution provides that the power is solely held by the committee chair and can be exercised by them alone without consultation or agreement from the other members of the committee, including the minority party.

State Rep. Kenyatta, in a late Thursday tweet, put the stakes in clear terms.

"What's happening in Pennsylvania is a national emergency," he wrote, "and we have to stop it."

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