Still, Pennsylvania Senate Republicans voted this month to subpoena records from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, including all 9 million registered voters’ nonpublic personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. They say they want to verify who cast ballots in the 2020 election and whether they were properly registered or fraudulent.
Senate Democrats and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, have sued to block the subpoena and the investigation. “No surprise in Arizona,” Wolf, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter Friday. “I won’t let Pennsylvania Republicans bring this circus here.”
Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about the Pennsylvania review:
—What’s an election audit?
Elections are complex and never perfect, and audits are one way officials verify the legitimacy of the results, identify issues and improve the electoral system. Generally speaking, election audits focus on one of two things: checking the results to confirm whether votes were tallied accurately, or reviewing how the election was run, including what policies and procedures were followed.
A recount, for example, can be considered a type of audit, checking the accuracy of the vote count.
“The reason why you perform an audit in the first place is you want to have confidence in the outcome,” said Trey Grayson, a Republican and Kentucky’s former top elections official.
—Pennsylvania Republicans call their efforts a ‘forensic audit’ or ‘forensic investigation.’ What does that mean?
Professional election experts sometimes conduct such reviews to make sure voting systems work as they should. For example, shortly after the 2020 election, a county board of supervisors in Arizona hired auditors to ensure voting machines weren’t infected with malicious software and that tabulators weren’t connected to the internet.
But the phrase “forensic audit” really took off after the Arizona Senate launched yet another probe in late 2020 and hired Cyber Ninjas, a contractor with no previous experience to review all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County and inspect machines. Even widely discredited by professionals, that review became a rallying cry for Trump supporters.