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Legislators' letter sows confusion over Pennsylvania's vote count as Trump continues to rail against election
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Legislators' letter sows confusion over Pennsylvania's vote count as Trump continues to rail against election

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Accusations by a group of Pennsylvania legislators of voting improprieties are the result of those lawmakers using an unfinished data set in a way that it is not intended to be used, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The allegation, which asserts that more votes were cast in Pennsylvania last month than there are people who voted, stems from use of a publicly accessible data set that lists Pennsylvania’s voters and their voting histories.

A group of legislators, led by Lebanon County state Reps. Frank Ryan and Russ Diamond, issued a letter on Monday claiming their calculations “raise even more troubling questions regarding irregularities in the election returns.”

The Sentinel was able to replicate a set of results Diamond had posted to Twitter on Tuesday, confirming that the legislators had reached their conclusion by interpreting the data set in a way the Department of State has said is incorrect.

That data set is known as Pennsylvania’s Voter Export List, and is, according to the department, regularly updated by county elections bureaus for public use, generally by political campaigns seeking which voters to target.

That file lists each voter with dozens of possible information fields for counties to fill in. One of those fields is the voter’s last vote date. Diamond’s calculations as to the total number of voters are the result of counting every voter whose “last vote date” column is filled in with the date of Nov. 3, 2020.

For many precincts and counties, this tally of the voter export file indeed yields a number lower than the total number of ballots cast in the posted election results. Statewide, according to Ryan, the difference between the two figures is a little over 200,000.

This is because many voters have the “last vote date” field left blank. According to the PA Department of State, many counties are still uploading last month’s voting activity to the file. Not everyone for whom that field is currently blank should be assumed to have not voted, department spokesperson Wanda Murren said.

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Pennsylvania’s election results are certified based on an audit of the paper ballots themselves, Murren wrote; the voter export file is not intended to be a perfect facsimile of this.

The fact that a spreadsheet is not yet fully filled in, or that some counties may have incompletely filled it in, has no bearing on the accuracy of the state’s certified election results, the department said.

“The legislators have given us another perfect example of the dangers of uninformed, lay analysis combined with a basic lack of election administration knowledge,” the Department of State wrote in a response to press inquiries.

Nevertheless, the legislators’ calculations provided near-instantaneous fuel for President Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories, with pro-Trump partisans claiming that the numbers were proof that a margin of votes had been fabricated.

Trump claimed in a Twitter post that, of the allegedly suspect votes, “100% went to Biden,” even though the voter export file does not tell the viewer who a person voted for.

Ryan’s letter was signed by Diamond and several other Pennsylvania Republicans who have supported Trump in his attempts to have the state’s election results thrown out.

These include local Reps. Barb Gleim and Dawn Keefer, who have also lent their support to a resolution calling on Congress to dispute the Electoral College vote as well as an amicus brief supporting Trump before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that was dismissed earlier this month.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, whose district includes Dauphin, eastern Cumberland and northern York counties, also cited Ryan’s numbers in a Twitter post, saying they “call into question” the integrity of the election as well as “the competency of those charged with its oversight.”

In a Twitter exchange with The Sentinel, Diamond said that Lebanon County was “done” uploading information about the November 2020 election to the state’s voter export file and that voters with the blank field in question had definitively not voted. Lebanon County’s elections office said Wednesday that officials who could address Diamond’s claim would not be available until after the New Year.

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