HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican lawmakers who have been spreading election conspiracy theories and falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential outcome was rigged are overseeing legislative committees charged with setting electoral policy in two major states in the field of political battle.
Divided government in Pennsylvania and Arizona means any voting restrictions proposed by GOP lawmakers are likely to backfire. Even so, the high-profile nominations offer lawmakers a platform to cast further doubt on the integrity of elections in states that will be key in selecting the next president in 2024.
Awarding such important positions to lawmakers who have repeated conspiracies and disseminated disinformation cuts against more than two years of evidence showing that there was no widespread trouble or fraud in the last presidential election. It would also appear to run counter to the message conveyed in the midterm elections in November, when voters rejected candidates denying running elections for high 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.
“It’s an issue that many Americans and many Pennsylvanians are tired of seeing argued and contested over and over again,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Amanda Cappalletti, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee on election legislation. . “I think we are all ready to move forward, and we see from audit after audit that our elections are safe, they are fair and people’s votes are being counted.”
Multiple reviews and audits in the six battleground states in which Trump disputed his loss, as well as dozens of court pushbacks and repeated cautions from officials in his own administration, underlined that the 2020 presidential results were accurate. There was no widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines that would have skewed the result.
The legislative appointments in Pennsylvania and Arizona highlight the gap between the two major parties on electoral law. Already this year, Democrat-controlled legislatures are moving to expand ballot access and increase penalties to intimidate voters and poll workers, while many Republican-led states aim to pass more restrictions, a trend that has suffered. an acceleration after Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
Democratic governors and legislative victories last fall will soften the influence of Republicans who took action or pushed rhetoric trying to overturn the 2020 election.
But in Arizona and Pennsylvania, two lawmakers who reject the validity of that election — not to mention other elections since — will have key positions of influence as majority chairmen of the legislative committees that oversee election legislation.
In Arizona, Republican Senator Wendy Rogers takes over the Senate Election Committee after being nominated by an ally, Senate President Warren Petersen. She was one of two lawmakers who signed subpoenas leading to Senate Republicans’ widely derided audit of the 2020 election.
Rogers, who has gained a national following for spreading conspiracy theories and questioning the election, has faced repeated ethics charges for his inflammatory rhetoric, support for white supremacists and conspiracy-filled social media posts.
She will now be the primary guardian of election and voting laws in Arizona, where electoral changes are a top priority for some Republican lawmakers. Some want to eliminate mail-in voting and early voting options used by more than 80% of the state’s voters.
He scheduled a committee meeting for Monday to look into bills that would ban unmonitored mailboxes, prohibit drive-through voting or ballot pickup, and impose what pro-voters advocates say are additional charges for the early vote.
In Pennsylvania, Republican Sen. Cris Dush assumes chairmanship of the Senate State Government Committee after pushing to keep the state’s electoral votes from going to Biden in 2020. Dush also staged an election survey he hoped would use the audit Arizona-style as a model.
He was nominated by Senate-ranking Republican Acting President Kim Ward, whose office explained Dush’s appointment only by saying that seniority plays a role and that members have priority requests.
In the early weeks of this year’s session, Dush took steps to expand voter ID requirements and add a layer of post-election checks. Both are proposed constitutional amendments designed to bypass a governor’s veto by going to voters for approval.
Dush said he also plans to develop legislation to require increased security for mailboxes and ballot papers.
“I’m going to make a promise to the people of Pennsylvania that the things I’m doing here as chairman of the state government will be things that will be done fairly and fairly,” 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 allegedly would veto hard-line GOP bills opposed by Democrats.
However, Democrats, county election officials and voting rights advocates in both states want changes to election laws that, with Dush and Rogers in office, may never see the light of day.
Alex Gulotta, the Arizona director for the voting rights group All Voting is Local, said he anticipates the legislature will pass a lot of “bad campaign bills.” He said moderate Republican lawmakers who may have voted against problematic measures under a Republican governor could now let them pass because they know Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs will likely veto them.
“This is performative,” Gulotta said. “This is 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 “real state ability.”
Liz Avore, senior adviser to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, said the organization expects another busy period of voting- and election-related legislative activity ahead of the 2024 presidential vote, even as candidates who have repeated Trump’s lies in a stolen 2020 election they lost bids for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general in key battleground states.
Democratic and Republican-led states are often moving in opposite directions, but some bipartisan consensus has emerged on some aspects of electoral law, such as restoring the right to vote for felons and expanding in-person early voting, he said ivory.
Republican proposals, such as expanding voter ID requirements, are popular and have majority support, as are some Democratic proposals to expand access, said Christopher Borick, a political science professor and pollster at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.
But to succeed with voters, Republicans need to keep the lessons of 2022 in mind. Denial of fair election results, he said, “is a loser for the Republican Party. Straight.”
Cooper reported from Phoenix.
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