An Az-style audit? Welcome to #HotMessSummer, Pennsylvania | Thursday Morning Coffee

July 8, 2021 7:27 am

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks with attendees on the Capitol steps of a rally for gun rights on September 29, 2020 (Capital-Star photo).

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Welcome to #HotMessSummer, Pennsylvania.

It wasn’t a matter of whether Trump ally, Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, was going to launch a long-suspected Arizona-style audit of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results, but only when.

After all, the signs had been there since at least May, when Mastriano, joined by a fellow Franklin County Republican, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, and Sen Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, toddled off to Maricopa County to tour the circus there, pronounced it good, and officially set the stage for a similar farce here in the Keystone State.

And on Wednesday, after a couple of temper tantrums from the Florida retiree about the election he lost fair and square, that’s exactly what happened.

“This investigation is not about overturning the results of either election,” Mastriano wrote in an opinion piece sent to news outlets across the Commonwealth. “The goals are to restore faith in the integrity of our system, confirm the effectiveness of existing legislation on the governance of elections, and identify areas for legislative reform.”

Reform here is largely in the eye of the beholder.

As I wrote on Tuesday, legislative Republicans, who objected to the 2020 election results and, thus, helped foment the mob sentiment that led to the Jan. 6 sacking of the U.S. Capitol, are engaged in a foundational attack on voting rights in the commonwealth.

This latest gambit by Mastriano, who has been in the vanguard of that effort, is only the most recent salvo in that attack. And it is nothing less than part of a concerted effort by the Trumpian right to undermine the public’s faith in the electoral process, and to propagate the myth of the stolen election.

Image via Flickr Commons

But wait, you ask, who’s going to pay for this audit? Who’s going to cover the cost of the Cyber Ninjas who will likely end up scrambling from one corner of the state to the other looking for evidence of non-existent fraud or whatever this misguided effort turns into?

Well, we don’t know.

And that’s because Mastriano wasn’t talking to Pennsylvania news outlets who might ask such inconvenient questions. But he did have more than enough time to ride the circuit of right-wing radio to talk about his plan.

But the chances are better than even that the taxpayers of Philadelphia, York, and Tioga counties, which were in the first round of queries that Mastriano blasted out on Wednesday, are going to end up paying for it. And that’s likely in addition to the inevitable court fights over the ballots, vote counting machines, voter rollers, mail-in ballot envelopes, and the software and hardware used throughout the voting process, that Mastriano called on them to fork over.

As an added bonus, Mastriano told one conservative outlet that “this is round one … I have other counties that want to be looked at as well, so we might do another round two.”

So the costs are only going to mount. And taxpayers in the impacted counties, along with all the rest of us who pay the salaries of Mastriano and his colleagues who further this shameful charade.

In a statement, the Department of State, which has oversight of elections in Pennsylvania, urged counties not to participate, pointing out that complying with Mastriano’s requests could compromise the integrity of their voting systems.

“The Department of State encourages counties to refuse to participate in any sham review of past elections that would require counties to violate the trust of their voters and ignore their statutory duty to protect the chain of custody of their ballots and voting equipment,” the agency said in it statement.

And, one more time, for the folks in the back: There is no evidence of fraud, nor is there any reason to believe that the state’s elections were compromised — either in 2020 or in the spring primary.

The only people peddling that message are Mastriano and his Trumpian allies.

State Sen. Sharif Street, center, and his wife, April, third from left, stand among officials and community activists outside City Hall on Tuesday, 7/6/21 (Image via The Philadelphia Tribune).

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the real problems that impact actual human beings continue unabated.

On Tuesday, hours before he buried a relative who was gunned down over the holiday weekend, state Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, and other local and state officials from Pennsylvania’s biggest city pleaded for more help combating an epidemic of violence that has disproportionately impacted Black Philadelphians and other people of color.

In Pittsburgh, local groups stepped up their efforts to share resources and prevent evictions as the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s eviction moratorium comes to an end.

In Luzerne County, Wilkes-Barre’s mayor blamed three city fires and the death of a young boy on Pennsylvania’s fireworks law. Legislative proposals to repeal it abound.

And on Mastriano’s home turf of central Pennsylvania, ambulance crews are strapped for workers, and say they’re at a ‘crisis’ stage.

Real problems. Affecting real Pennsylvanians. With real world implications. All of them begging for the time and attention of one the nation’s largest and most expensive legislative bodies.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
From Staff Reporters Marley Parish and Stephen Carusohere’s the full story on Sen. Doug Mastriano’s call for an Arizona-style audit of Pennsylvania’s election results.

In Philadelphia, during a season of mounting violence, state and local officials called for more help to fight it, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

Activists from ACT UP Philadelphia have called for a revamp of the city’s housing services, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

And our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper shine a spotlight on one local activist who’s working to make a difference in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Michael Cogbill, of the Philadelphia NAACP, suggests a novel solution to fighting gun violence: a 20-year halt on the production of all new weapons. And rural or urban, we all bear the economic cost of gun violence, Erin Buchner, an activist with Moms Demand, writes.  

A Philadelphia cop’s brother has been charged with attacking a Black Lives Matter protester in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood, the Inquirer reports.

The final merger plan for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education promises no campuses will close – it is silent on other matters, the Post-Gazette reports.

Central Pennsylvanians turned into big tippers during the pandemic. PennLive wonders whether the generosity will continue.

Spotlight PA explains why a funding boost for the state Office of Dog Law Enforcement stalled again (via LancasterOnline).

The Morning Call looks at the property tax burden in every region of the state.

A corrections officer and inmate have been charged in the death of an inmate at the State Correctional Institution-Dallas in Luzerne County, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Philadelphia housing activists have dropped their lawsuit against the Kenney administration over sweeps at a homeless encampment, WHYY-FM reports.

More than 1,000 cases of a mysterious bird illness have been reported in Pennsylvania, WESA-FM reports.

Erie County’s new community college has gotten its first state budget appropriation. GoErie looks at what will happen with the money.

The Observer-Reporter rounds up school budgets in Greene and Washington counties.

Twice as many U.S. renters fell behind on their payments during the pandemic, reports.

U.S. Senate hopefuls Val Arkoosh, a Democrat, and Jeff Bartos, a Republican, and both of Montgomery County, each raised more than $1 million for their respective campaigns during the second quarter, PoliticsPA reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

Gov. Tom Wolf heads to Lancaster County for a 10 a.m. stop to plug the new education spending in the 2021-22 budget.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to progressive advocate Dan Doubet, of Cumberland County; Sandy Huffman, of CBS-21 in Harrisburg, and Richard Reilly, proprietor of Metropolis Collective in Mechanicsburg, Pa., all of whom celebrate today. Congratulations friends, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
There’s only one song today and it goes with the feature below. Here’s ‘Three Lions,’ from the Lightning Seeds, Baddiel, and Skinner.

Thursday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Is it coming home? Maybe. England are one game away from hoisting the Euro 2021 trophy after besting Denmark 2-1 on Wednesday. The Three Lions face Italy in the final on Sunday.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.