The Reporter (Vacaville)

Election-denying lawmakers hold key election oversight roles

- By Marc Levy and Jonathan J. Cooper

HARRISBURG, PA. >> Republican lawmakers who have spread election conspiracy theories and falsely claimed that the 2020 presidenti­al outcome was rigged are overseeing legislativ­e committees charged with setting election policy in two major political battlegrou­nd states.

Divided government in Pennsylvan­ia and Arizona means that any voting restrictio­ns those GOP legislator­s propose is likely to fail. Even so, the high-profile appointmen­ts give the lawmakers a platform to cast further doubt on the integrity of elections in states that will be pivotal in selecting the next president in 2024.

Awarding such plum positions to lawmakers who have repeated conspiraci­es and spread misinforma­tion cuts against more than two years of evidence showing there were no widespread problems or fraud in the last presidenti­al election. It also would appear to run counter to the message delivered in the November midterm elections, when voters rejected election-denying candidates running for top offices 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 is an issue that many Americans and many Pennsylvan­ians are tired of seeing litigated and relitigate­d over and over,” said Pennsylvan­ia state Sen. Amanda Cappallett­i, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee that handles election legislatio­n. “I think we're all ready to move on, and we see from audit after audit that our elections are secure, they are fair and that people's votes are being counted.”

Multiple reviews and audits in the six battlegrou­nd states where Trump disputed his loss, as well as dozens of court rejections and repeated admonishme­nts from officials in his own administra­tion, have underscore­d that the 2020 presidenti­al results were accurate. There was no widespread fraud or manipulati­on of voting machines that would have altered the result.

The legislativ­e appointmen­ts in Pennsylvan­ia and Arizona highlight the divide between the two major parties over election law. Already this year, Democratic­controlled legislatur­es are moving to expand access to voting and heighten penalties for intimidati­ng voters and election workers, while many Republican-led states are aiming to pass further restrictio­ns, a trend that accelerate­d after Trump's false claims about the 2020 election.

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

But in Arizona and Pennsylvan­ia, two lawmakers who dismiss the validity of that election — not to mention other elections since then — will have key positions of influence as the majority chairs of legislativ­e committees that oversee election legislatio­n.

In Arizona, Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers takes over the Senate Elections Committee after being appointed by an ally, Senate President Warren Petersen. He was one of two lawmakers who signed subpoenas that led to Senate Republican­s' widely derided audit of the 2020 election.

Rogers, who has gained a national following for spreading conspiracy theories and questionin­g elections, has faced repeated ethics charges for her inflammato­ry rhetoric, support for white supremacis­ts and conspiracy-filled social media posts.

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