The House GOP passed an "Election Integrity Panel" out of committee on Wednesday.By Meghan Schiller

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – The Republican-controlled statehouse in Harrisburg is looking at setting up what is being described as an “Election Integrity” panel.

The panel would have subpoena power to look into how elections are regulated and conducted. It would also use that power to determine if new laws are needed.

The idea passed out of committee on Wednesday, but the threat of coronavirus halted discussions. A Republican representative tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, canceling the morning’s voting session and any discussion about the panel.

“It’s just another attempt and part of their plan, I believe, to erode trust in voting and delay the results,” House Democratic Leader Rep. Frank Dermody said.

Three Republicans and two Democrats would make up the panel, something state Republicans call a necessary watchdog group.

“This committee is invested only with investigatory powers,” said House Republican Caucus spokesperson Jason Gottesman. “It has no ability to change law. It has no ability to take any legislative action. It has no interest in interfering with the conduct of the upcoming election.”

According to Democrats, they’re afraid the Republicans in the majority would use this panel to launch partisan investigations and potentially impound uncounted ballots ahead of Election Day.

“It would cause tremendous disruptions,” Rep. Dermody said. “They could subpoena votes, they could subpoena drop boxes, you name it. That’s what I believe the intent was.”

Gottesman disagrees, saying the Democrats’ allegations are not even based on current law.

“Some of those accusations are entirely inaccurate,” he said. “We would not do anything to interfere with the timely count of ballots or the process, because we want to have safe and secure elections with accurate results as soon as possible after Election Day.”

Lawmakers will now wait for the next scheduled session on Oct. 19, when they will hear more about the panel.

Meghan Schiller