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Opinion: Pennsylvania Republicans plow forward on election audit

Despite the results of the discredited forensic audit of the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County, Arizona, Pennsylvania Republicans are going full steam ahead on a similar audit.

A Republican-led review of 2 million ballots in Arizona’s most populous county confirmed last September that Joe Biden won the county in the 2020 election. In fact, Biden picked up 360 additional votes as the results were announced.

Now we learn that Cyber Ninjas, the firm hired to conduct the Arizona review, has been ordered to pay $50,000 a day until it turns over records from the review sought by The Arizona Republic newspaper. The company is in disarray to the point where it has told the court it has no way to find the records.

Earlier this month, a superior court judge in Maricopa County found the Florida-based company in contempt of court because it failed to follow his order to hand over the records.

Now comes the startling part of the story that has largely flown under the national press’ radar: A Cyber Ninjas attorney said the company has laid off all employees, including its former Chief Executive Officer Doug Logan, and is now insolvent. A company spokesman said Cyber Ninjas is shutting down.

Maricopa County officials concluded that the 2020 election was handled properly, that there was no fraud and that Biden had carried the county by more than 45,000 votes that helped give him Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.

Before Arizona Republicans awarded the contract to Cyber Ninjas, former President Donald Trump hailed the Arizona audit and promised it would show that he, not Biden, won the state and would uncover widespread fraud. Of course, that didn’t happen. Quite the opposite frankly. After the results were announced in September refuting his allegations, Trump had the audacity at a rally the next day in Georgia to say “We won on the Arizona forensic audit at a level that you wouldn’t believe. They had headlines that Biden wins in Arizona when they know it’s not true.”

This embarrassment in Arizona has not deterred Republican legislators here from moving forward with a similar audit despite howls of protests from Democrats, good government groups and lawsuits filed by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Pennsylvania State Department.

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee is calling for hearings in several months to review information from the audit. The Republicans awarded a $270,250 no-bid contract to Envoy Sage, a Florida firm. This, by the way, is taxpayer money, which I contend is an unnecessary expenditure to try to satisfy the political whims of politicians who are kowtowing to Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election.

Both sides made presentations to Commonwealth Court in December. In a preliminary ruling earlier this month, the court ruled that both sides had valid points and upheld parts of each’s arguments. The court has more work to do on the petitions and motions before rendering a final opinion.

Envoy Sage has been unable to conduct a complete audit and analysis of the 2020 general election and the 2021 primaries because of these lawsuits. Shapiro, himself a candidate for governor, objects to attempts to gain access to voters’ private information such as the last digits of Social Security numbers and driver’s license information. Subpoenas were issued after counties refused to cooperate with the Senate committee’s demands for voting information.

According to the contract, Envoy Sage is to produce a report by May 15, but Republicans could extend the agreement if they choose to do so.

Among the backers of the Republican efforts is state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, who last year was called out by name by Trump, who accused Argall of dragging his feet in getting the ball rolling on the audit.

Argall, who chairs the Senate State Government Committee and who is a member of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, has taken the position of “what’s the harm” in looking at the results one more time, despite the fact that there have already been two audits, and election officials across the state - Democrats and Republicans - said the 2020 election was one of the most secure in our state’s history.

In an interview with Spotlight PA last year, Argall did not necessarily dispute the outcome of the election, but he did not say unequivocally that he accepts the Biden victory in Pennsylvania captured the popular vote by about 80,000 and with it the state’s 20 electoral votes.

Asked whether he thought the election was fair and secure, Argall said, “Can’t we do the audit, and answer that, so that we all have a final answer?” “So is that a yes or a no?” the interviewer responded. “That’s, let’s do the audit and find out,” Argall evasively replied.

Along with his criticism of Argall, Trump also unleashed a blistering attack on Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, asking both whether they were “stupid, corrupt or naive.” Corman is also a gubernatorial candidate.

Corman acted quickly by replacing Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, as lead person to handle the audit and turned it over to Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who now chairs the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee. Mastriano, who has championed Trump’s allegations of a stolen election, is a candidate for governor, and he claims that Trump had asked him last year to run for the position; however, Trump has not yet endorsed a candidate for governor.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.