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Local News

Report classifies 87 Pennsylvania state lawmakers as ‘election deniers’

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Kim Lyons and Jon King, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 8, 2024

Seven states, including Pennsylvania, that were the focal points of Republican efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election have more than 200 legislators labeled in a new report as being “election deniers.”

States United Action, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission to protect elections, issued the report Thursday using data collected  with the assistance of Penn State University’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy. It found 202 “election deniers” currently serving as state legislators in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania had more election deniers in its legislature than any other state it analyzed, the report’s authors wrote, making up more than 80% of the Senate Republican caucus and holding a majority of seats “on several of the most important committees that handle election matters, and hold leadership positions within those committees.”

The report identified 87 Pennsylvania state legislators, all Republicans, who fit within its description, noting that together they make up 34% of the 253-person body — nearly half of the state Senate (23) and almost a third of the state House of Representatives (64).

“In our decentralized election system, state legislators have immense power to shape voting procedures and election administration. Election Deniers can — and are trying to — leverage this power to erode our democracy. And they’re doing it outside the spotlight of national politics,” Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Action said.

In general terms, the group identified “election deniers” as those who have either introduced or cosponsored bills that would add barriers to voting, enabled investigations of voters, promoted election conspiracy theories, made it harder for nonpartisan election officials to do their jobs, or otherwise interfered with the routine functioning of elections.

While the phrase “election deniers” is one often used in the fallout from the 2020 election, States United Action says adding legislators to its list relied on research of their social media accounts as well as their websites and news media coverage to gather information on election-related statements and actions.

Using that data, States United Action says it then specifically identified “election deniers” as having done one or more of the following:

  • Falsely claimed former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election instead of the legitimate winner, President Joe Biden.
  • Spread lies or promoted conspiracies about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election or subsequent election cycles in public, including in social media, press statements, or comments to the press.
  • Refused to certify, or called on or pressured election officials to refuse to certify, the 2020 presidential election results or a race in subsequent elections based on meritless claims about election fraud, voter fraud, misinformation or lies.
  • Taken action to undermine the integrity of the 2020 presidential election and/or subsequent election cycles, including:
    • Filing or supporting litigation seeking to overturn the results based on conspiracies or baseless legal theories.
    • Filing or supporting litigation that was sanctioned for being malicious or without merit in the aftermath of an election.Promoting or participating in a Stop the Steal-sponsored or branded event or rally during or following the 2020 election.
    • Calling for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election or a race in subsequent elections after the results were certified, were officially audited, or stood up to multiple legal challenges.
  • Refused to concede a race, or publicly supported a candidate’s refusal to concede a race, after the results were officially audited or stood up to multiple legal challenges.

Sixty-four members of the General Assembly signed a letter urging members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to object and vote to sustain the objection to Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania for Biden during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

In Pennsylvania, 20 people signed a certificate in December 2020 stating they had cast electoral college votes for then-President Donald Trump, when Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the popular vote. The group has emphasized that the certificate indicated the votes for Trump were intended to be used in the event the election results were overturned in court. Josh Shapiro, then attorney general of Pennsylvania, has said that caveat prevented the group from being prosecuted in court.

“We have to keep track of the Election Denier movement, especially those who are outside the spotlight of national politics. In an election year as critical as this one, every level of government matters,” said Lydgate. “What we found is clear: Election Deniers in state legislatures pose a real threat. Among other things, they’re introducing legislation that undermines our free and fair elections, and they’re eroding public trust by pushing conspiracy theories and lies.”

Peter Hall of the Capital-Star staff contributed.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.