Pa. Republicans joining last-ditch election challenge

January 5, 2021
In The News

Eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Republican members of Congress have indicated they will vote against certifying the state's electoral votes on Wednesday when Congress will meet to formally approve President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

Biden won Pennsylvania by 80,555 votes — almost double the margin of Trump’s victory in the state in 2016, when he won by 44,292 votes. The state's 20 electoral votes put Biden over the 270 needed to win the Electoral College. Biden ended with 306 electoral votes.

The lone Pennsylvania Republican in the U.S. House who didn’t sign onto a letter announcing the plan to object was U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents the 1st Congressional District in Bucks County, outside Philadelphia.

Biden won Bucks County by 17,345 votes, according to state data.

“I’m not saying he (Fitzpatrick) doesn’t believe” that challenging the election results is wrong, “but he has to be careful politically,” said G. Terry Madonna, senior fellow in residence for political affairs at Millersville University.

The state’s other eight Republican members in the U.S. House — Mike Kelly of Butler County, Scott Perry of Cumberland County, Guy Reschenthaler of Washington County, Fred Keller of Snyder County, Glenn “G.T.” Thompson of Centre County; Dan Meuser of Luzerne County, John Joyce of Blair County and Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County — announced jointly over the weekend that they intend to challenge the election results.

Madonna said there’s been no credible suggestion that the challenge will be successful. Once the challenges are made, they will be decided by a majority vote in each chamber of Congress and Democrats hold the majority in the U.S. House.

“There’s nothing to suggest Biden won’t be elected,” he said. “It’s just a question of going through this process."

The move to challenge the results is popular with Trump’s supporters even if it is doomed, he said.

Requests for interviews with the House members challenging the election results weren’t successful on Monday. Thompson told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat on Friday that his objection isn’t based on allegations of fraud. Instead, he said get thinks the Wolf administration and the state Supreme Court overstepped in making changes to the way the state conducted mail-in voting.

“(Wednesday) Jan. 6 is really the last stand,” Thompson said, to make “our voices heard.”

In their statement, the Republican members of Congress said that Pennsylvania's election results were "based upon a flawed system" and "voters of Pennsylvania deserve integrity in the election process."

The move to challenge the election results is coming from conservative lawmakers in heavily-Republican leaning districts, said Thomas Baldino, a professor of political science at Wilkes University. The concerns about being challenged in the Republican Primary by a Trump-backed candidate might be particularly threatening to the members of Congress most recently elected — Meuser, Reschenthaler and Joyce were all elected in 2018 and Keller was elected in a special election in 2019.

“They don’t want to be primaried,” Baldino said. “These folks are showing a commitment to Trump."

Baldino said he thinks their actions have the potential to cause real harm though.

“The most serious problem is how it undermines public faith in elections,” he said. “Every time that happens, it drives people away from the polls,” Baldino said.

While the House members have indicated they will challenge the election results, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who has already announced he is not running for re-election, has indicated that he won’t challenge the results and criticized the move to do so by other members of Congress.

“Allegations of fraud by a losing campaign cannot justify overturning an election,” Toomey said.

Members of Congress challenging the election results "fail to acknowledge that these allegations have been adjudicated in courtrooms across America and were found to be unsupported by evidence," Toomey said. "President Trump’s own Attorney General, Bill Barr, stated ‘we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.'"

Toomey said he voted for Trump but added "on Wednesday, I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”