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Pa. House committee passes election audit, likely won't be complete before certification of vote

After initially calling for a full audit of the election results, the Pennsylvania House GOP advanced a measure for an "extensive risk-limiting audit," and all Democrats on the committee voted against it

Updated: November 20, 2020 - 6:21pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A Pennsylvania House committee has passed a resolution authorizing an audit of the state's election results, but it likely won't be completed before the those results are certified. 

The unofficial count shows Joe Biden beating President Trump in the keystone state by 81,384 votes — less than 1.5%.

After the election took place, Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, a Republican, called for the state to conduct a full audit of the results. 

Cutler's office told Just the News that the Department of State is "moving forward with its standard audit post-certification" and hasn't responded to their request for a full audit. 

The GOP-led State Government Committee passed a resolution on Wednesday "directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to coordinate a risk-limiting audit of ballots canvassed in the 2020 general election." All 10 Democrats on the committee voted against the audit, and 15 Republicans voted in favor of it.

The extensive risk-limiting audit would have to be completed by an outside entity. 

Republican State Rep. Jesse Topper proposed the audit resolution that passed out of the State Government Committee. According to a press release from Topper's office, while the Department of State "does conduct an audit of every election, which is based on samples, the LBFC risk-limiting audit would encompass much larger samples and require data sets, much like what was done for an audit report on the 2020 primary election."

A spokesperson for Cutler's office, Michael Straub, said the audit "likely would not be completed before certification" of the final election results, but he added that the Trump campaign has lawsuits that might address the timing of the certification.

"Our focus is not on the results of the elections, but on the process and the actions taken by counties as a result of guidance provided by the Department of State," the spokesperson said.

Late in the campaign, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar sent out guidance to counties advising that individuals with rejected mail-in ballots would be eligible to vote through a provisional ballots on Election Day.

Cutler's office pointed out that the 2020 election featured two major changes compared to past elections: no-excuse mail-in voting and new voting machines in all 67 counties after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf "decertified every voting machine in the state unilaterally over security concerns."

Cutler has argued that the state's standard audit is not adequate.

"We argue it does not take a broad enough sample size, does not include many relevant data points which we required in the report produced on the primary election, and that this election is so unique (again as a result of the huge changes in state law) that a much more comprehensive audit is necessary," said Straub.

Gregory Gross, a spokesperson for Topper, told Just the News that a non-partisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee's audit would help "ensure continuity" as the legislative session comes to an end.

"The 2019-20 session ends on Nov. 30 while the LBFC can continue its work well passed that date. The resolution directs the audit of the election process to be completed and a report filed no more than 60 days from Election Day, with a possibility that the deadline could be extended an additional 30 days," he said.

Gross explained that counties certify their results first, then the Department of State certifies the statewide results around the middle of December.

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