PA elections to be reviewed by Envoy Sage

November 25 — The Intergovernmental Operations Committee in the Pennsylvania Senate has decided on a firm to look into the PA elections.

Envoy Sage, an Iowa-based company will review the 2020 general election as well as the 2021 primary election and will receive $270,000 from the state for doing so.

Steve Lahr, president of Envoy Sage, had this to say, “Our team will begin with an examination of the 2020 general and the 2021 primary elections in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, followed by an analysis of voter submissions made to the committee’s website. Next will be a review of previous election of audit-related materials and then we will provide recommendations for future election and voting integrity legislation.”

State Senator Judy Ward, attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the election review Wednesday morning during First News. 

Barkdoll said, “My concern here is when you look into that press conference yesterday, Mr. Lahr and this Envoy Sage, they admitted they have zero experience in election audits, so it’s really puzzling how this firm rose to the surface. Now to their credit, they do have experience with just audit work in general at the federal level, at the Department of Defense. He really emphasized the fact that he thinks they’re a bipartisan group. They’re not going into this in a partisan way. Just curious to me how this firm rose to the surface when they have no background doing this kind of work. So we’ll see. They’ll start engaging in this very shortly. It sounds like they’re going to take a lot of public comment. There might even be some hearings that they would orchestrate related to all of this. It’ll probably be well into next year until we see any kind of findings of their audit report here.”

Ryan added, “There’s some narrative floating out here that there’s nothing to see here. That there’s no evidence of irregularities as some folks are writing here. All you have to do is look at what happened in Philly when they made people put on binoculars to try to see the count in an election setting there trying to count the ballots. Isn’t that enough right there? The Republicans had to go to court to see what you’re counting. Isn’t that enough evidence of an irregularity?”

Barkdoll said, “I think those are the sort of issues that you’re going to see this firm report back on. Things like that. Also things like, could we start counting ballots earlier than election day? This idea of taking days post election day to get results, I think you’ll see some of that. The results of the election are not going to be changed, obviously, and they’re saying that they don’t think there’s any evidence, when I say they even this committee, that that’s going to happen, but I think what you’re more going to see happen is a list of procedural type recommendations on things that could be done to make the process better. Whether that’s election observers, to the mail-in process, to the counting process, maybe even the voter registration process. Then the question is will the General Assembly and Governor Wolf be able to get together to adopt any of this? Remember all of this stuff’s been out there now for two years, even pre-2020 election and everyone seems to acknowledge that there’s issues, but nothing has been done to address it. There’s been all these proposals made. Nothing has been approved. Maybe as a result of this group’s report something will get over the finish line. We’ll see.”

Ward explained, “Last week after consultation with leadership and the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which I’m a member of, the company Envoy Sage was hired. The firm has no political associations, has worked with Democratic administrations, Republican administrations. It’s a veteran owned company. They have worked for the Department of Defense and kept classified information safe. They’ve been hired to consult and to review election concerns. Also review the state uniform registry of electors to analyze information that we get from the Department of State, look at the affidavits that have been submitted to the committee and look at other election integrity initiatives across the nation. Best practices from other states. We said before we want fair, thorough and an impartial investigation into Pennsylvania’s elections. So we’re hoping to use these results to look at legislation to improve our elections. There’s going to be some recommendations that come out of this investigation. That’s something that all Pennsylvanian’s should want.”

Ryan pointed out, “This company is getting $270,000. Where’s the money coming from? I know State Representative Schemel has already put together election reforms and put a package together on that that were awfully good. We did some research. We asked some questions. We did best practices. We asked all these questions, so I’m more interested in what are they going to find when you start peeling back the onion in Philadelphia rather than making some more recommendations and some more reform ideas that have already been put forth by State Representative Schemel and his group.”

Ward said, “That group if I’m not mistaken, they have not gone through our SURE (Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors) system. I don’t think they have gotten information from the Department of State, which is what we’re being sued about that we have requested information from the Department of State, so there are some things that they have not looked at and people want answers. I think we owe it to the citizens of Pennsylvania to get answers. So this is what we’re going to do. This project is being funded by caucus dollars.”

Ryan asked, “What does that mean caucus dollars? It’s not taxpayer dollars? It’s caucus dollars?”

Ward said, “It’s taxpayer dollars that have been put aside by our caucus and will be used for this investigation.”

Jansen said, “Because you can use that for various things. It’s earmarked for you all to decide the best way to use it and a lot of taxpayers would agree we want you to use it to look into this. This company doesn’t have experience precisely with this kind of election material, although they’ve done lots of auditing and I guess their big claim their making is because people are worried about the integrity and we don’t want information released that shouldn’t be released, the protection of people’s identities, things like that. They say we’ve done very good in that area. We certainly know how to be secure and to provide analysis.”

Ryan asked, “Was this sent out to bid or is it just the leadership goes okay we like this company? How do we determine that Envoy Sage is the company that gets the $270,000?”

Ward said, “Other companies were looked at and Senator Dush, the committee and leadership decided that this was a company that had integrity and felt very comfortable with they’ve done in the past and what they could do for the commonwealth.”

Ryan added, “Were there any other companies, I mean as Michele has just said there’s no history of them doing any kind of election investigation. It gives me a little pause. I understand they’ve got some federal government agencies that they’ve worked with here, but is it of question to you going well are there other people that have done this before? Why this company?”

Ward said, “They’re able to subcontract. They’re on the hook for this. They are committed to keeping this information secure. I find it interesting the people that are screaming the loudest saying, you know Department of State, we can’t release this information. This is information they have released to three other groups. League of Women Voters being one of them so this is absurd that they’re screaming like this. This company, they have a great track record. They’ve done work for the Department of Defense and they’ve kept all that classified information safe.”

Jansen pointed out, “And the League of Women Voters, I love how people try to pretend like that’s a non-biased group. It’s not.”