Republicans on the Committee on House Administration held a hearing Tuesday highlighting the failures by Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, election officials in managing the locality’s 2022 election.
“For years, several of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have claimed that states like Florida and Georgia — that have implemented voter integrity laws — are suppressing voters. … However, they have never produced a single voter who wanted to vote and was unable to,” said Chair and GOP Rep. Bryan Steil. “Contrast that with today, as we hold a hearing with evidence that voters who wanted to legally vote were turned away from the polls.”
On the morning of Election Day, numerous precincts throughout Luzerne County reported ballot paper shortages, leading to long wait lines and voters being turned away by election workers. In response, a local judge issued an order allowing polling places to stay open an additional two hours, or until 10 p.m. While Luzerne’s elections board originally declined to certify the election results (2-2-1), the board ultimately moved forward with certification following legal threats from left-wing law firms. Democrats, who often decry GOP-backed election integrity initiatives such as voter ID as “voter suppression,” have largely remained silent on the disenfranchisement of Luzerne voters.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Jim Bognet, the 2022 Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district — of which Luzerne is a part — referred to the Nov. 8 election in Luzerne as a “disaster” and criticized county election officials for their mismanagement of the contest and its aftermath.
“Luzerne County had to walk into court and admit that many polling places were effectively closed and had no paper to record votes on. In Luzerne County, the polls were closed on election day, disenfranchising voters,” Bognet said. “Voters across Luzerne County have called me and expressed their outrage that there has been no accountability or responsibility taken 4.5 months after the election, and officials still will not answer questions.”
Shortly after the election, Luzerne’s board of elections and registration asked the county district attorney to investigate the matter. Three Luzerne election officials declined the House committee’s invitation to testify on Tuesday after the county law office recommended they not attend due to the ongoing investigation.
In his remarks, Bognet accused Luzerne officials of using the investigation as a “shield” to avoid answering questions from constituents.
“My understanding is that the district attorney is doing a criminal investigation. Who knows if criminal activity occurred, he’ll investigate that. But what about gross incompetence? What about forgetting to order ballot paper?” he said.
During his remarks, Luzerne citizen Benjamin Herring echoed similar criticisms of county officials, noting “a complete lack of respect and understanding to what being a public servant is.”
“When does accountability and transparency become more than just a punch line or calculated posturing?” Herring asked. “I hold hope that the Luzerne County District Attorney will get to the bottom of this and present all of what is discovered to the citizens of Luzerne County. Anything less will be shameful, unacceptable, and would require more action on our part to hold the line on accountability.”
Predictably, Democrats on the committee used the hearing to play political games and advance trite talking points. During her allotted time, Alabama Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell argued that the federal government should provide more funding to states for elections. In her comments, she called on her colleagues to “look at the president’s budget,” specifically pointing to $5 billion allocated for the Election Assistance Commission “to provide grants” for state election administration.”
During the 2020 election, left-wing groups like the Center for Tech and Civic Life received hundreds of millions of dollars from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. These “Zuckbucks” were poured into local election offices in battleground states around the country to change how elections were administered, such as by expanding unsecured election protocols like mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes. To make matters worse, the grants were heavily skewed towards Democrat-majority counties, essentially making it a massive Democrat get-out-the-vote operation.
While acknowledging the disaster in Luzerne, ranking member and New York Democrat Rep. Joe Morelle also decided to inject partisan politics into the hearing. After repeatedly questioning the need for the hearing, Morelle attempted to rehash the 2020 election by asking Bognet whether he believes Joe Biden won the contest.