A group of Republican lawmakers on Friday amplified a baseless conspiracy theory alleging a Venezuelan-backed effort to undermine the 2020 election by manipulating the software in one company’s voting machines to take votes from President Donald Trump.
Interim House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove called a press conference in the Ryan Office Building to chastise election system manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems for backing out of a public hearing scheduled for Friday.
Grove framed the company’s decision not to appear as an attempt to hide something, though the answers to many of the questions the Republicans claimed they needed from Dominion are already available on the Department of State’s website or are the purview of county elections officials.
Dominion supplied voting machines to 14 counties, including York, home to Grove and fellow Republican Dawn Keefer, a State Government Committee member who also spoke at the press conference Friday. The pair won re-election this month with votes cast on Dominion machines.
Keefer claimed that “we can’t trust” third-party companies involved in elections, even though every election in modern Pennsylvania history has relied on voting systems manufactured by third-party companies.
Those systems must be certified by the Pennsylvania Department of State before counties are allowed to purchase them, and the state publishes its certification reports on its website. Dominion’s is 118 pages, and includes details of the security and software checks the state conducted, including during testing that was open to the public.
Conservatives cheered Grove’s press conference on social media, and fellow Republican legislators, including Lancaster Sen. Ryan Aument, echoed Grove’s message. Augment said he was “disappointed” Dominion chose “to let these allegations go unanswered — a decision that only perpetuates distrust.”
President-elect Joe Biden has called attacks on the election’s integrity — and Trump’s efforts to overturn the results — “totally irresponsible.”
“An incredibly damaging message is being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions,” Biden said.
Part of the conspiracy theory against Dominion, which emerged on right-wing media and blog sites and has since been adopted by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, alleges Dominion machines deleted 941,000 Trump votes in Pennsylvania.
That’s a mathematical impossibility.
About 1.3 million votes were cast on Dominion machines in Pennsylvania. The total voter registration in the counties that use Dominion machines is 1,751,401, according to state data.
There couldn’t possibly be 941,000 deleted votes because, factored back into the results, they’d add up to nearly half a million more registered voters than actually exist in those counties.
“Fifty-two percent of (votes cast on Dominion machines) went to President Trump, amounting to 676,000 votes processed for the president in Pennsylvania using company systems,” according to a lengthy statement on Dominion’s website debunking the conspiracy theories.
The legislators’ comments casting doubt on the integrity of the election took place amid a larger effort by President Trump and his allies to undermine faith in the American democratic system in order to sow doubt about the validity of an election he lost.
“Pennsylvanians could have been put at ease,” Grove said. “Instead, we walk away more skeptical.”
The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a statement Nov. 12 saying that skepticism is groundless.
“The Nov. 3 election was the most secure in American history,” according to the agency. “... All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary.”
Such was the case in Georgia, where the reliability of Dominion voting machines was validated earlier in the week by both an audit of the machines themselves and a manual recount overseen by Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State.
Grove said his committee’s inquiry was “not going to change the outcome” of the election.
“But we need to know what happened,” Grove said. “There are broad accusations. I didn’t say they were true.”
All Pennsylvania voting systems leave a paper trail that can be audited after an election, the result of a lawsuit filed by former Green Party candidate Jill Stein after Trump’s narrow victory in the 2016 election. At the time, speculation that Russia interfered on Trump’s behalf stoked fears on the left that election machines had been hacked. Subsequent investigations found attempted — and occasionally successful — penetrations of portions of state election infrastructure but did not find altered vote totals.