House Democratic Leader Dermody says Republican effort threatens democracy

HARRISBURG, Sept. 30 – Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said a stealth attack on Pennsylvania voting and voters is positioned to advance through a House committee today and could receive action by the full House as soon as Thursday.

The State Government Committee is scheduled to vote today on House Resolution 1032 establishing a House Select Committee on Election Integrity empowered to conduct unlimited investigations of the upcoming election including the ability to subpoena election officials from anywhere in the state.

“This dangerous and unprecedented power grab by one caucus in the General Assembly holds the potential to create massive chaos by interfering with an election while it’s in progress. It aligns with by the Trump campaign itself,” Dermody said.

“If the resolution passes, this new committee would be given a blank check for expenses and the immediate legal power to compel the appearance of election officials in the midst of an intense period when they should be preparing for the election and then counting the votes.”

The previously unknown measure was introduced on Monday by Rep. Garth Everett, Republican chairman of the committee set to consider it today. It authorizes all costs of the new select committee’s work to be paid for by the House’s chief clerk. The House speaker would name the select committee chairman, presumably another Republican.

“The wording of the resolution is vague and open-ended,” Dermody said, “leaving the distinct possibility of steps being taken that would have seemed inconceivable before now. To put it simply this is a dangerous threat to our democracy.

“For instance, this committee could ‘subpoena witnesses, documents and other materials’ related to the election. With none of those terms defined and no apparent limitation on their breadth, there’s a real potential for serious harm to the ongoing election. As this is currently written, it’s even possible the committee could try to impound uncounted ballots,” Dermody said.

“This seems less an honest attempt to examine the election and more a naked political gambit to cripple the vote while it’s happening. While that sounds hard to believe, the arrival of this resolution just as mail-in voting begins really worries me.

“Of additional concern, the resolution also would allow this small select committee to prepare and file legal documents in court, all at taxpayer expense, without specifying what those court filings might entail.

“There was zero consultation about this with Democrats by the sponsor or other Republican leaders. Coming as it does from the party of President Trump, it appears to be an attempt to throw the authority and resources of the House behind a partisan effort to manufacture more distrust and unfounded accusations of election fraud,” he said.

Dermody noted that the unchecked work by the select committee would commence well before the November election, possibly before the end of this week.

As the resolution is worded, once the House adopts it the new legislative panel can begin interfering as it chooses with the election in progress. By law election administration is supposed to be an executive function carried out by the Department of State and 67 counties with enforcement of election laws under the purview of district attorneys. Under the resolution the select committee would be authorized to “investigate” an election before there are any final vote counts or certified results.

“This is the very last thing the House of Representatives should be doing right now,” Dermody said.