A Republican lawmaker in Pennsylvania has come out against his colleagues' "forensic" audit of the 2020 election, becoming the party's first statewide official to publicly call for an end to the effort and warn of electoral consequences for the party.
In an opinion piece on Thursday, state senator Dan Laughlin says that moves to investigate former President Donald Trump's loss to President Joe Biden in the state are being made "absent credible evidence of fraud" and won't change the outcome, as some voters hope.
"The current attempt to discredit the 2020 election results runs headlong into an unmistakable truth," wrote Laughlin, a center-right Republican from Erie County. "Donald Trump lost Pennsylvania because Donald Trump received fewer votes."
His comments mark a rare public rebuke of Republican state senator Doug Mastriano from within his own party. Mastriano has been arguing for a comprehensive "forensic" investigation involving the inspection of voting equipment, modeled on the ongoing probe in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Mastriano, who has been a leading promoter of Trump's stolen-election claims, launched the investigation earlier this month with requests to Tioga, Philadelphia, and York counties for access to their voting machines.
Tioga and York have indicated they will not comply after the state's top election official said she would decertify their voting equipment, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Philadelphia is also expected to reject Mastriano's request.
Pennsylvania has already conducted a so-called risk-limiting audit of the 2020 election, and all counties audited a sample of their votes. Neither effort turned up widespread fraud to put in question Trump's loss to Biden in the state by 81,000 votes.
Mastriano, who is seen as a potential contender for governor in 2022, has said he would issue subpoenas to the counties, a move they will likely challenge in court. Mastriano did not respond to a request for comment.
Laughlin, who is also eyeing a run for governor, said an effort to "rummage through already counted ballots while employing statistical tricks" in search of fraud would only help Democrats raise money and harm his party in upcoming elections.
Laughlin pointed to the fact that Republicans generally did well in Pennsylvania in 2020, capturing the posts of state treasurer and auditor general for the first time in decades.
"That's not a sign of a stolen election," he wrote, urging his fellow lawmakers to focus instead on issues important to his party including lower taxes and economic growth.
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