Several election-denying lawmakers occupy key roles in monitoring votes

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican lawmakers who have been spreading election conspiracy theories and falsely claiming the 2020 presidential result was rigged are overseeing legislative committees tasked with setting election policy in two key political battleground states .

A divided government in Pennsylvania and Arizona means any voting restrictions proposed by GOP lawmakers are likely to fail. Even so, the high-profile nominations give lawmakers a platform to cast further doubt on the integrity of elections in states that will be crucial in selecting the next president in 2024.

Awarding such plum posts to lawmakers who repeated conspiracies and spread disinformation clippings against more than two years of evidence showing there were no widespread problems or fraud in the last presidential election. It would also seem to run counter to the message delivered during November’s midterm elections, when voters rejected contestants running for top office in presidential battleground states.

At the same time, many mainstream Republicans are trying to move past the lies told by former President Donald Trump and his allies about his loss to President Joe Biden.

“This is an issue that many Americans and many Pennsylvanians are tired of seeing argued for and raised over and over again,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Amanda Cappalletti, a Democrat on the Senate Committee on electoral legislation. “I think we’re all ready to move on, and we’re seeing in audit after audit that our elections are safe, they’re fair, and people’s votes are counted.”

Democratic governors and legislative victories last fall will blunt the influence of Republicans who took action or pushed rhetoric seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

But in Arizona and Pennsylvania, two lawmakers who reject the validity of that election — let alone other elections since then — will hold key influential positions as majority chairmen of legislative committees that oversee election legislation.

In Arizona, Republican Senator Wendy Rogers takes the helm of the Senate Elections Committee after being nominated by an ally, Senate President Warren Petersen. He was one of two lawmakers to sign subpoenas that led to Senate Republicans’ widely derided audit of the 2020 election.

Multiple reviews and audits in the six battleground states where Trump contested his loss, along with dozens of court dismissals and repeated warnings from officials in his own administration, underscored that the 2020 presidential results were accurate. There was no widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines that would have altered the outcome.

Legislative nominations in Pennsylvania and Arizona highlight the rift between the two major parties on election law. Already this year, Democratic-controlled legislatures are working to expand voting access and increase penalties for bullying voters and election workers, while many Republican-led states aim to pass new restrictions, a trend that accelerated after Trump’s misrepresentations about the 2020 election.

Rogers, who has won a national following for spreading conspiracy theories and questioning elections, has faced repeated ethics charges for his inflammatory rhetoric, support for white supremacists and conspiratorial social media posts. .

She will now be the top gatekeeper for electoral and electoral bills in Arizona, where electoral changes are a top priority for some Republican lawmakers. Some want to eliminate mail-in voting and early voting options that are used by more than 80% of voters in the state.

She has scheduled a committee meeting for Monday to consider bills that would ban unguarded drop boxes, ban drive-thru voting or ballot pick-up and impose what suffrage advocates say are additional charges. for early voting.

In Pennsylvania, Republican Senator Cris Dush is taking over as chairman of the state’s Senate Government Committee after pushing to stop the state’s electoral votes from going to Biden in 2020. Dush has also mounted an election probe that, he hoped, would use the Arizona-style audit as a model.

He was nominated by the Senate’s ranking Republican, Pro Tem Chairman Kim Ward, whose office only explained Dush’s appointment by saying seniority plays a role and members have priority demands.

In the first weeks of this year’s session, Dush advanced steps to expand voter ID requirements and add a layer of post-election audits. Both are proposed constitutional amendments designed to circumvent a governor’s veto by traveling to voters for approval.

Dush said he also plans to draft legislation to require more security measures for ballot boxes and ballots.

“I’m going to make a promise to the people of Pennsylvania: the things that I do here as chairman of the state government will be things that will be done fairly and impartially,” Dush said in an interview. “You know, we just have to make sure that we can guarantee the integrity of the vote and that people are not disenfranchised.”

Arizona and Pennsylvania have newly elected Democratic governors who would likely veto tough GOP bills opposed by Democrats.

Still, Democrats, county election officials and suffrage advocates in both states want changes to election laws that, with Dush and Rogers in place, may never see the light of day.

Alex Gulotta, the Arizona director for the voting rights group All Voting is Local, said he expects the Legislature to pass many “bad election bills.” He said moderate Republican lawmakers who might have voted against problematic measures under a Republican governor may now pass them because they know Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs will likely veto them.

“It’s performative,” Gulotta said. “It’s not substantial.”

The question, he said, is whether Rogers and other Arizona lawmakers can cooperate on “small fixes” where there is consensus. This, he said, will require “a real sense of statehood.”

Liz Avore, senior adviser to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, said the organization expects another busy period of voting and election-related legislation before the 2024 presidential vote, even if the candidates who repeated the lies of Trump over a stolen 2020 election lost gubernatorial bids. , Secretary of State and Attorney General in major battleground states.

States led by Democrats and Republicans often move in opposite directions, but bipartisan consensus has emerged around certain aspects of election law, such as restoring felony voting rights and expanding voting in person anticipated, Avore said.

Republican proposals, such as expanding voter ID requirements, are popular and have majority support, as are some Democratic proposals to expand access, said political science professor and pollster Christopher Borick. at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

But to be successful with voters, Republicans must learn the lessons of 2022. Denying fair election results, he said, “is a loser for the Republican Party. Directly.”

Cooper reported from Phoenix.


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