Spotlight PA’s vital, independent journalism depends on your support. Contribute now »

Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism depends on your support. It's that simple. Contribute now. Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism depends on your support. It's that simple. Contribute now.

Elections

Pa.’s new auditor general says his election was fair, but he won’t talk about the others

by |

Timothy DeFoor (right) became the first Republican in more than two decades to win the row office, a major victory for the party.
Commonwealth Media Services

This article is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. A version of it originally appeared in Spotlight PA’s free weekly newsletter.

HARRISBURG — The state’s new auditor general — charged with serving as an independent and impartial fiscal watchdog on behalf of taxpayers — has refused to affirm that the 2020 election was fair and accurate, despite his own victory.

Timothy DeFoor became the first Republican in more than two decades to win the row office, a major victory for the party (DeFoor bested Democrat Nina Ahmad, a former deputy Philadelphia mayor, by 3 percentage points). And he was clear, when he recently appeared before a state House committee, that he believes his race was fair and that he is the rightful victor.

As for the other races on the same ballots in the same election? He has nothing to say.

“I believe my election was fair,” DeFoor said in response to a question from Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Philadelphia). “As far as anybody else’s election, that’s a conversation that you would have to have with them, but I haven’t heard any complaints with regards to my specific election.”

When pressed this week about the comment, a spokesperson from DeFoor’s office called it a “personal view” and declined to elaborate.

Although Pennsylvania Republicans fell short in their efforts to re-elect President Donald Trump, the GOP performed extremely well in down-ballot races, maintaining their majority in the state Senate, growing their control in the state House, and flipping two statewide row offices.

Despite those gains, party leadership has repeatedly questioned the integrity of the election, while a handful of Republicans have fueled false claims of voter fraud.

The hearing DeFoor attended was one of 14 scheduled by Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) to investigate the 2020 election and evaluate Pennsylvania’s Election Code more broadly.

DeFoor said he was only there to testify about a 2019 audit of the state’s antiquated voter record system, which was overseen by his predecessor, Democrat Eugene DePasquale. He spent much of the meeting deferring questions to two staffers who helped with the audit.

Before Kenyatta could press DeFoor further, Rep. Paul Schemel (R., Franklin) — who ran the meeting as Grove was out with “COVID-19-like symptoms” — interrupted him.

“I think that’s outside of the boundaries of the discussion we’re hearing today,” Schemel said.

Asked if DeFoor stood by his comments and would elaborate, his office declined Wednesday.

“Auditor General DeFoor was asked an off-topic question by a committee member and expressed his personal view,” a spokesperson for DeFoor’s office said in an email. “Because the department may yet be asked to become involved in an official capacity, he must maintain his independence and has no further comment.”

At least one lawmaker, Sen. Bob Mensch (R., Montgomery), said he’ll introduce a bill requiring DeFoor’s office to audit “the processes by which each county handled their elections” in 2020. Counties are already required to audit 2% of their ballots.

While the state auditor general’s office independently examines how government departments spend taxpayer money, it relies on funding from the legislature. At his swearing-in Jan. 19, DeFoor promised taxpayers “accountability, integrity, and transparency.”

“Pretty disturbing that Auditor General DeFoor ‘can’t answer’ whether the 2020 election was free and fair, but unequivocally believes his personal election which also occurred in 2020 was fair,” Kenyatta said in a tweet about the meeting. “Make that make sense.”

100% ESSENTIAL: Spotlight PA relies on funding from foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results. Become a member today at spotlightpa.org/donate.

Photo of Marie Albiges

Marie Albiges

Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism depends on your support. It's that simple. Contribute now.