Pennsylvania: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses the last challenge over 2020 election | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. Supreme Court closed the books on Pennsylvania’s 2020 election Monday, rejecting an appeal of a Republican congressional candidate’s unsuccessful challenge of the state’s mail-ballot deadlines. The case was the last of a torrent of litigation challenging the administration of Pennsylvania’s election, which drew intense scrutiny and several appeals to the Supreme Court. But the court repeatedly declined to intervene in the Pennsylvania cases, even as some conservative justices signaled potential interest. On Monday — five months and 16 days after Election Day, and three months into Biden’s presidency — the court vacated the previous judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, returned the case to the circuit court, and instructed it to dismiss the case as moot. No justices were listed as dissenting from the decision. The ruling means the state can count about 10,000 mail ballots that had arrived after Election Day. They were far too few to change President Joe Biden’s 81,000-vote victory in Pennsylvania but those votes hadn’t been included in the state’s certified vote count, leaving thousands of voters technically without a voice in the election. The Pennsylvania Department of State is now “reviewing the options” for those ballots, a spokesperson said Monday. The case resolved Monday, Bognet v. Degraffenreid, was one of several focused on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling that extended mail-ballot deadlines until three days after Election Day. That ruling was meant to address concerns that mail delivery delays would prevent votes from arriving on time.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses the last challenge over Pennsylvania’s 2020 election

Pennsylvania State House committee hears suggestions on improving election laws, but will the Legislature listen? | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Good government stakeholders and national advocacy groups told lawmakers in Harrisburg on Thursday that incremental changes to the election law can alleviate the burden on stressed-out county workers and make it easier for voters to participate in the process. Their testimony came as the House State Government Committee finished its series of election oversight hearings, intended to give members a firsthand look at what might be needed to tweak the election code in the coming months and years. As Democrats continued to express fears that the Republican-led committee and Legislature will use the hearings to justify a crackdown on voting accessibility and mail-in ballots, a majority of those who testified agreed that changes to the law should be procedural and bipartisan. “As has been noted repeatedly in these hearings, the vast majority of Pennsylvania election law is still from the 1930s,” Committee of Seventy President and CEO David Thornburgh said in written testimony to the committee. “Revamping the entire Election Code may not be possible at this juncture, but the General Assembly has yet another opportunity to substantially modernize Pennsylvania election procedures, maintain election integrity, and improve the customer service experience of eligible voters.” The biggest consensus appeared to be that county election officials need more time to pre-canvass and process the influx of mail-in ballots, something that counties have been calling for since well before last November’s general election.

Full Article: State House committee hears suggestions on improving Pa.’s election laws, but will the Legislature listen? | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania: Taxpayers footed the bill for election lawsuits. Costs went into the millions | Julia Agos/WITF

Two weeks after the 2020 presidential election was called for Democrat Joe Biden, and as President Donald Trump sought to overturn the results, Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey issued a statement accepting Biden’s win. The Keystone State’s 20 electoral votes handed Biden the White House. But they had become the target of an unprecedented effort by Trump and his allies to reverse what his Justice Department and eventually over 60 legal decisions would confirm was a free and fair election. On Nov. 21, U.S. Middle District Court Judge Matthew Brann, who is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, had just tossed out the Trump campaign’s efforts to invalidate all 7 million of Pennsylvania’s votes. Toomey, who voted for Trump, had seen enough. “President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania,” Toomey wrote. Four days later, Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican from Butler County and a fervent Trump backer, filed a lawsuit challenging Act 77, which allowed for no-excuse mail voting. Almost every Republican lawmaker voted yes when the state legislature passed it in 2019. Kelly was asking that all 2.5 million mail in votes be invalidated.

Full Article: Taxpayers footed Pa.’s bill for election lawsuits. Costs went into the millions | WITF

Pennsylvania: Postal Service finds no evidence of mail ballot fraud in case cited by top Republicans | Jacob Bogage and Shawn Boburg/The Washington Post

U.S. Postal Service investigators found no evidence to support a Pennsylvania postal worker’s claim that his supervisors had tampered with mail-in ballots, according to an inspector general’s report — allegations cited by top Republicans to press baseless claims of fraud in the presidential election. Richard Hopkins, a mail carrier in Erie, alleged in November that he overheard the local postmaster discussing plans to backdate ballots received after the Nov. 3 vote and pass them off to election officials as legitimate. Working with Project Veritas, a nonprofit entity that seeks to expose what it says is bias in the mainstream news media, Hopkins publicly released a sworn affidavit recounting those allegations. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) cited Hopkins’s claim in a letter to the Justice Department in November calling for a federal investigation into election results in Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 81,000 votes, and Democratic candidates outperformed GOP challengers in votes submitted by mail. Graham and many other congressional Republicans refused to accept the outcome of the election for weeks, even after states audited and certified results. Then-Attorney General William P. Barr subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open investigations into credible allegations of voting irregularities and fraud before results were certified, a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy.

Full Article: USPS: ‘No evidence’ in mail ballot fraud case cited by Republicans – The Washington Post

Pennsylvania counties will again be unable to process mail ballots early during primary election | Marie Albiges/Spotlight PA

Local officials in Pennsylvania are facing another election without extra time to process mail ballots, likely leading to delayed results and putting increased pressure on counties reeling from the most expensive contest ever. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre) and Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) told the New Castle News last week they likely wouldn’t consider any election-related legislation until after the House State Government Committee completes its 14 election oversight meetings, the last of which is scheduled for May 5, less than two weeks before the May 18 primary. The municipal primary — which includes races for local and appellate court judges, school board members, and township positions — typically has much lower turnout than a presidential race. But election officials said they can’t predict how many voters will take advantage of the state’s no-excuse mail voting law during an off-year election. “It’s just not possible, even with a small election, to get everything counted in one day plus run another election,” said Marybeth Kuznik, Armstrong County’s election director.

Full Article: Counties will again be unable to process mail ballots early during Pa.’s primary election · Spotlight PA

Pennsylvania: U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear mail-ballot deadline case | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it won’t hear several challenges to Pennsylvania’s 2020 election — including two appeals of the state’s mail-ballot deadline extension — denying a Republican attempt to severely limit courts’ ability to oversee how elections are run. The decision not to hear the legal challenges brought by top Republican state lawmakers and the state GOP ends litigation that prevented Pennsylvania from counting 10,000 mail ballots that arrived in the three days after Election Day and had remained in legal limbo. But one final legal challenge to those ballots remains before the high court, and the Pennsylvania Department of State isn’t counting them until that case is resolved. If counted, they would likely extend President Joe Biden’s 80,000-vote victory in the state. The decisions show how the campaign to challenge and undermine the election results by Donald Trump and his allies outlasted even his presidency, and are only now close to coming to an end after meeting near-universal defeat in state and federal courts. The decisions also set back a Republican push to significantly shift the election law landscape by essentially shutting out courts from making changes to election procedures. The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to decide how elections are run, but that has long been understood to mean the normal legislative process, including sign-off from governors and judicial review of the law. The question of court oversight and state legislative power remains unresolved, in what one expert called “a ticking time bomb.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented, saying they would have heard the two mail-ballot deadline extension cases. The court also decided not to hear a case brought by the Trump campaign that sought to overturn a number of Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions, and a case brought by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Pa.) and others that challenged the state’s mail voting law itself.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear Pennsylvania mail-ballot deadline case

Pennsylvania: US Supreme Court won’t take up challenge to presidential election results | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away Republican challenges to the presidential election results in Pennsylvania, refusing to take up a months-long dispute over extending the deadline in that state for receiving mail-in ballots. It was part of a purge of sorts. The high court formally dismissed a range of suits filed by Donald Trump and his allies in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona — all states won by Democrat Joe Biden. The court’s intent in most of those had been signaled when it refused to expedite consideration of them before Biden was inaugurated as president. The case about deadlines for receiving mail-in ballots was different, though. Three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — said it deserved the court’s attention, even though the number of votes at issue would not call into question Biden’s victory. “A decision in these cases would not have any implications regarding the 2020 election,” Alito wrote. “But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections.” It takes the votes of four justices to accept a case for review. Although changing election rules because of the pandemic has been a theme of Republican challenges in the wake of Trump’s defeat, the rest of the conservative majority was silent. Neither Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. nor two of the three justices nominated by Trump signed on to dissents from Thomas and Alito. Besides Gorsuch, Trump chose Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Full Article: Supreme Court won’t take up challenge to Pennsylvania presidential election results – The Washington Post

Pennsylvania: U.S. Supreme Court will consider Rep. Kelly’s petition over mail-in voting law | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In a closed-door session on Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court will discuss if it wants to hear a case on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law. The nine Supreme Court justices, who use private conferences to mull the thousands of cases they’re asked to review each year, will consider a petition filed by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, and other Republicans that asks the court to settle if Pennsylvania and its state Legislature violated the U.S. Constitution when it instituted mail-in voting in 2019. Though experts note it’s extremely unlikely that any one case is chosen for full review by the nation’s highest court and that the court had already denied requests for expedited review and an emergency injunction, lawyers for the Republican plaintiffs say their case raises important issues that are relevant far beyond a single election. “The reason it’s important is the court should take an interest in whether Pennsylvania’s election laws are administered constitutionally or not, and in accordance with the Pennsylvania constitution and with the federal constitution,” said Greg Teufel, a lawyer representing Mr. Kelly. Acknowledging that it’s a “1 or 2 percent chance” the court takes their case since so many cases are vying for its attention, Mr. Teufel said he expects the justices to ask the defendants — including the state, Gov. Tom Wolf and former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar — to file their official response, which they indicated they wouldn’t do unless asked by the court.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court will consider Rep. Kelly’s petition over Pa. mail-in voting law | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania mail-in ballot registry isn’t as permanent as the word implies | Deb Bradley/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pennsylvania’s 2019 mail-in ballot law continues to create confusion as election officials across the state prepare for their first municipal primary under the new rules on May 18. The law that the GOP-controlled legislature passed by an overwhelming bipartisan margin in 2019 triggered a number of challenges and court clarifications last year as millions of Pennsylvania voters flocked to no-excuse mail-in voting for the first time in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic. Now, its wording is creating confusion anew for some. Many voters thought they had registered to receive a mail-in ballot in all future elections when they opted to be part of what the law termed a “permanent mail in ballot list.” But it turns out the list isn’t so permanent. In fact, many voters learned for the first time this month that it is, instead, an annual list that they must re-register for every year to continue to receive mail-in ballots. In fact, voters who registered to be on the “permanent list of mail-in voters” will be removed from the list if they don’t act now to re-register soon. Confused? Although the 2019 law that allowed Pennsylvanians to vote by mail without providing an excuse created a registry for those who opted to receive a mail-in ballot for all future elections, it added a provision that required those who chose that option to re-register annually.

Full Article: Pennsylvania mail-in ballot registry isn’t as permanent as the word implies |

Pennsylvania’s voting laws likely to change, but not in a big way | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As last year’s ultra-litigious presidential election magnified nearly every aspect of Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting laws, stakeholders say incremental clarifications to the law are more likely in the coming years than sweeping, foundational changes. While other states float complete overhauls of their systems, Pennsylvania’s political arena is more conducive to passing small changes to the election code that result from bipartisan consensus, observers and stakeholders say. They cite the veto power of a Democratic governor over the Republican-controlled Legislature as well as support for vote by mail by the general public and many members of both parties. “I think there’s more common ground [on election reform] than areas we can’t agree on,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said of Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg. But there’s always the possibility of political theater in a state that saw Republicans mount numerous legal attacks on the intricacies of Act 77, the Legislature’s 2019 overhaul of the voting system that garnered bipartisan support and allowed voters to cast ballots by mail.

Full Article: Pennsylvania’s voting laws likely to change, but not in a big way | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to resign over missed constitutional amendment requirement | Angela Couloumbis/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania’s top election official will resign after her agency made a mistake that will delay a statewide vote on whether survivors of decades-old sexual abuse should be able to sue the perpetrators and institutions that covered up the crimes. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, who oversaw a tense and difficult presidential election in the battleground state, will resign Feb. 5, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday. The resignation follows the discovery that the Department of State did not advertise, as required under state law, a long-sought amendment to the state constitution that would open a two-year window for litigation by survivors of child sexual abuse who have aged out of the statute of limitations. Advocates hoped to see the referendum on the ballot as soon as this spring. But the error means that Pennsylvanians won’t be able to vote on such a change until spring 2023 at the earliest — a blow to survivors who have fought for a window for nearly two decades. “This change at the Department of State has nothing to do with the administration of the 2020 election, which was fair and accurate,” Wolf said. “The delay caused by this human error will be heartbreaking for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual assault, advocates, and legislators, and I join the Department of State in apologizing to you. I share your anger and frustration that this happened, and I stand with you in your fight for justice.”

Full Article: Kathy Boockvar, Pa. Secretary of State, to resign over missed constitutional amendment requirement

Pennsylvania: Elections officials from Lehigh County, elsewhere tell lawmakers of problems with state’s aging electronic voter registration system | Ford Turner/The Morning Call

The electronic backbone of Pennsylvania’s election system — the software that holds every voter’s registration data and election participation — is being replaced, to the “rejoicing” of elections officials statewide. Lehigh County Election Board Chief Clerk Timothy Benyo used that word Thursday during a hearing as he and others spoke on the pending replacement of the State Uniform Registry of Electors system. The replacement plan started long before the partisan chaos of the presidential election. Snyder County Commissioner Joseph Kantz — with agreement from Benyo — ticked off a laundry list of complaints about the current system, which is nearly 20 years old. They include inadvertent sending of printouts to other counties, misplaced “batches” of voter applications in the system, and system downtime. “Focusing on the future, the Department of State is moving forward with a replacement system and all 67 counties are rejoicing with that announcement,” Benyo said. A company whose name was not given during the hearing has been selected to provide the new system that will host the so-called SURE database. A department spokesperson was not available to answer questions. “We are on a timeline that would actually deliver this before the primary of next year,” Department of State Deputy Secretary Jonathan Marks testified. Marks said counties would help customize the new SURE system over the next 12 months. Lebanon County Director of Elections Michael Anderson said the target implementation date is February 2022.

Full Article: Elections officials from Lehigh County, elsewhere tell lawmakers of problems with Pennsylvania’s aging electronic voter system – The Morning Call

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General | Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson/The New York Times

When Representative Scott Perry joined his colleagues in a monthslong campaign to undermine the results of the presidential election, promoting “Stop the Steal” events and supporting an attempt to overturn millions of legally cast votes, he often took a back seat to higher-profile loyalists in President Donald J. Trump’s orbit. But Mr. Perry, an outspoken Pennsylvania Republican, played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse. It was Mr. Perry, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, who first made Mr. Trump aware that a relatively obscure Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, the acting chief of the civil division, was sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view that the election had been stolen, according to former administration officials who spoke with Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump. Mr. Perry introduced the president to Mr. Clark, whose openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud presented Mr. Trump with a welcome change from the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president’s efforts to undo them. Mr. Perry’s previously unreported role, and the quiet discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Clark that followed, underlined how much the former president was willing to use the government to subvert the election, turning to more junior and relatively unknown figures for help as ranking Republicans and cabinet members rebuffed him.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General – The New York Times

Pennsylvania Republicans spent $1 million in tax dollars on 2020 election lawsuits to suppress voters | Charles Davis/Business Insider

Pennsylvania Republicans spent more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars on litigation aimed at making it more difficult to vote ahead of the 2020 election, according to documents obtained by the news organization PA Spotlight. Over $650,000 went to the same law firm that tried and failed to place Kanye West on the ballot in another swing state. In a post on Thursday, PA Spotlight revealed that the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus, which controls the commonwealth’s upper chamber, spent a total of $1,042,200 in the runup to November trying to restrict methods of voting. In particular, the state GOP sought to overturn key provisions of Act 77, a law passed in 2019 – with unanimous support from Senate Republicans – that allowed voters to request mail-in ballots for any reason. At the time, the Pennsylvania state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman called the legislation “the most historic reform bill we’ve done.” But as time went on, Republicans began to see the measure as a boon to their political opponents, with Democratic voters far more likely to vote by mail during the pandemic. The Senate GOP also sought to prevent those ballots from being placed in secure drop boxes and to throw out millions of mail-in votes altogether, an effort rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. According to PA Spotlight, money on such litigation went to two firms, the bulk of it going to Holtzman, Vogel, Josefiak, and Torchinksy, founded by a former lawyer for the Republican National Committee. That firm also tried to place Kanye West on the ballot in Wisconsin. Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxell, and Hippell also received just under $385,000 in tax collars for election work in Pennsylvania. Lawrence Tabas, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, is a partner at the firm, PA Spotlight reported.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Republicans spent $1 million in tax dollars on 2020 election lawsuits to suppress voters | Business Insider India

Pennsylvania election directors eye a key change to help with vote counting — but political partisanship might get in the way | Emily Previti/WITF

Given the upheaval in the 2020 election cycle, voting reforms are expected to be at the top of Pennsylvania lawmakers’ agenda this year. But stakeholders worry the partisan gridlock that prevented changes before the last election will be even harder to overcome in 2021. In recent interviews, election directors across the state discussed which election reforms should get top priority, and challenges to getting them into practice. “Counties are going to be pushing to start doing the pre-canvassing earlier than Election Day,” said Keith Button, who’s handled election matters since 2015 as solicitor for Crawford County. Right now, Pennsylvania counties can start pre-canvassing at 7 a.m. on Election Day, but can’t actually count votes until 8 p.m. that day, when the polls close. If counties can do pre-canvassing earlier, Button said, that means those ballots won’t have to wait as long to be counted once polls close.  “…and (elections office) can focus on running the in-person election on Election Day,” he said. “And also so that everybody can get their results out faster.” 

Full Article: Pa. election directors eye a key change to help with vote counting — but political partisanship might get in the way | WITF

Pennsylvania election probe over discarded Luzerne County military ballots ends without changes | Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer

Federal prosecutors in Harrisburg announced Friday they had found “insufficient evidence” of a crime in an election investigation that President Donald Trump and his allies had repeatedly touted as a sign of vote-rigging in Pennsylvania. The case, involving nine military ballots found discarded in a Luzerne County dumpster, was unusual from the start. Breaking with traditional Justice Department norms that prohibit discussing most ongoing investigations — especially ones that could influence elections — then-U.S. Attorney David J. Freed sent out a news release confirming the probe after Trump alluded to the matter on a Fox News Radio segment in September. The president then repeatedly cited it during his first debate against Joe Biden to bolster his baseless claims that widespread fraud would cost him the election. In a since deleted tweet, a Trump campaign spokesperson pointed to the case, claiming: “Democrats are trying to steal the election.” In his announcement Friday, Freed’s successor, Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, said no criminal charges will be filed. “The matter is closed,” he said in a statement.

Full Article: Pa. election probe over discarded Luzerne County military ballots ends without chages

Pennsylvania: Angered by State Supreme Court rulings, GOP moves to exert more control over judiciary branch | Marie Albiges/Spotlight PA

A state House panel narrowly advanced a measure Wednesday aimed at giving the Republican-controlled legislature the power to draw districts for electing appellate court judges in Pennsylvania, a major shift away from the current statewide contests. The majority party has made overhauling the courts a priority after a slew of unsuccessful litigation involving the administration of the 2020 election as well as the coronavirus pandemic. But critics warn the change is an attempt to exert control over the judiciary branch. The House Judiciary Committee voted 13-12 in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment, which would affect races for state Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts. If passed by the full House and Senate by Feb. 18, it would be before voters for the May 18 primaries. Republicans contend electing judges by district will lead to more geographic representation. A majority of the 31 appellate judges are from either Philadelphia or Allegheny County — including four of the seven Supreme Court justices — but those areas make up less than a quarter of the state’s population. Rep. Russ Diamond (R., Lebanon), who introduced the amendment, said judges’ judicial philosophies are influenced in part by their geography, and courts should reflect that geographic diversity. “Just like we have geographic diversity when we create law and come to consensus based on that multi-voice, we should also have that sort of diversity when those laws are heard on appeal and when our courts are setting precedent for the future,” he said.

Full Article: Angered by Pa. Supreme Court rulings, GOP moves to exert more control over judiciary branch · Spotlight PA

Pennsylvania: Brewster will be sworn-in, GOP leader says, as federal judge denies Ziccarelli challenge | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In a ruling issued Tuesday, a federal judge in Pittsburgh upheld the counting of a few hundred ballots in Pennsylvania’s 45th Senatorial District that had defects on their outer envelopes, again validating Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster’s victory and handing the GOP another post-election loss in the courts. Mr. Brewster’s Republican opponent, Nicole Ziccarelli, had asked U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan to void the ballots, arguing that Allegheny County’s tallying of them violated due process and equal protection provisions of the federal constitution because similar ballots weren’t counted in Westmoreland County. The judge denied her complaint. “Contrary to Ms. Ziccarelli’s reading, the Court finds that the Supreme Court expressly held that the undated ballots at issue remain valid ballots that are properly counted under state law,” Judge Ranjan wrote in his opinion. “Thus, because Ms. Ziccarelli’s federal constitutional claims all depend on the invalidity of the ballots under state law, those claims necessarily fail on the merits.”

Full Article: Brewster will be sworn-in, GOP leader says, as federal judge denies Ziccarelli challenge | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania: Fact-checking Josh Hawley’s claim about state’s election law | Amy Sherman/PolitFact

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri led the Senate charge against the electoral college certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Much of his argument was based on changes to mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. Hawley said that he objected to Biden’s win because Pennsylvania failed to follow its own state election laws. “You have a state constitution that has been interpreted for over a century to say that there is no mail-in balloting permitted, except for in very narrow circumstances that’s also provided for in the law,” Hawley said Jan. 6. “And, yet, last year, Pennsylvania elected officials passed a whole new law that allows universal mail-in balloting, and did it irregardless of what the Pennsylvania Constitution said.” Hawley’s central argument is that a new state law about voting by mail — passed not “last year” but in the fall of 2019 — conflicts with the state’s constitution. The courts have not backed up his argument, and he omits the full story about the new law. The state constitution doesn’t have an explicit ban on mail-in voting, and the law permitting mail-in voting passed with strong Republican support.

Full Article: Fact-checking Josh Hawley’s claim about Pennsylvania’s election law | PolitFact

Pennsylvania: Republicans move ahead on plans to review election process; tentative series of 14 hearings to start Jan. 21 | Ford Turner/The Morning Call

Republicans in both chambers of the General Assembly have moved to carry out in-depth reviews of how Pennsylvania conducts elections, including a tentatively scheduled series of 14 hearings by a House committee starting Jan. 21. The Republican steps came on Tuesday, before the violent breaching of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. York County Republican state Rep. Seth Grove on Tuesday issued a set of 14 dates for the hearings, which will carry into April. On the same day, the Republican-led Senate passed a motion in a split vote to form a special bipartisan committee on election integrity and reform. Republicans on Thursday said their plans likely would not be greatly affected by the events in Washington, D.C. Grove, chair of the State Government Committee that will hold the hearings, noted that the first date is still two weeks away. And Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for the House Republican caucus, said nothing that would take place in the hearings would reflect the lawlessness seen in Washington. The moves appear to follow through on Republican leaders’ vow in early December to look into voting security and counting; management of the election by Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar; and the impact of judicial decisions on the election.

Full Article: Republicans move ahead on plans to review Pennsylvania election process; tentative series of 14 hearings to start Jan. 21 – The Morning Call

Pennsylvania: This Is What Regime Change Feels Like | Richard Primus/Politico

One day before a political mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, a less violent breach of norms dominated the day in a different capitol building, a hundred miles away. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the ceremonial swearing-in of recently elected state senators, the chamber’s Republican majority refused to seat a Democratic colleague because his Republican opponent was still trying to challenge his certified election win in court. When the chamber’s presiding officer—Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, also a Democrat—declared that motion out of order, the Republicans voted to remove him and hand parliamentary control to the Senate’s senior Republican, essentially taking control of the chamber. Commentators described the events as ominous: a legislative majority using its brute power to deny the choice of the actual voters of Pennsylvania’s 45th District—who, as of today, still have no state senator. The Harrisburg power play lacked the dramatic violence of the assault on the U.S. Capitol one day later, but it was shocking in its own way, not least because the people breaking the norms were elected legislators and not a mob of outsiders. As unusual as it seemed, however, it wasn’t entirely unprecedented. The Pennsylvania Statehouse had seen something like it before, more than 200 years ago. And although the eighteenth-century incident that this week’s Harrisburg antics evoke might seem like a humorous historical anecdote now, it also shows why conduct of the kind that occurred in the Pennsylvania Senate this week is genuine cause for worry—and more related than it might seem to the mob scene in Washington one day later. The year was 1787, and the issue was whether to ratify the new U.S. Constitution. Congress had sent the proposed new Constitution to the state legislatures and asked them to hold ratifying conventions. In Pennsylvania, a small majority in the Legislature favored the new Constitution. But the sizable minority opposed to it was determined to prevent the state from ratifying. Lacking the votes to defeat a resolution calling a ratifying convention, the minority members decided simply to prevent any legislative business at all. Rather than accept a loss, they refused to show up to the chamber, denying the majority the quorum necessary to do business.

Full Article: This Is What Regime Change Feels Like – POLITICO

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf calls Republicans’ election claims ‘shameful’ lies for political gain | Charles Thompson/PennLive

Gov. Tom Wolf put Pennsylvania’s Republican Congressmen who plan to support objections to the 2020 presidential election results on full blast Wednesday, accusing them of being willing participants in perpetuating what he called a “shameful” lie for personal political gain. Eight of the state’s U.S. House members have affirmed their intent to support objections to the final certification of electoral votes in Congress today. Wolf, noting all of the objecting Pennsylvanians were elected to new terms in the very same election, called their actions shameful. “They could not have taken their own seats in in Congress in good conscience if they truly believed the election results were inaccurate, which just leaves one possibility: That they are purposely spreading disinformation about our elections for personal political gain,” Wolf said. “That’s shameful, and that’s destructive, and I cannot let it stand unchallenged. “The problem is these folks are not telling the truth, because it’s a fact. Pennsylvania had a fair and free election. It’s a fact that there was no fraud or illegal activity in Pennsylvania. It’s a fact, that (President-elect) Joe Biden won the presidency, and to be clear, it wasn’t even close.” The Democratic governor’s comments came during a mid-day press conference in which he, his Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and Philadelphia commissioner Al Schmidt offered full-throated defenses of Pennsylvania’s balloting and counting.

Full Article: Gov. Wolf calls Republicans’ Pa. election claims ‘shameful’ lies for political gain –

Pennsylvania: Republican complaints about election are groundless, state officials and legal scholars argue | Marc Levy/Associated Press

The complaints about Pennsylvania’s election — brought by eight of the state’s Republican members of Congress who say they will oppose electoral votes cast for President-elect Joe Biden — are either untrue or dismissed by the courts, state officials and constitutional law scholars say. Those eight will join dozens of other Republicans around the country whom President Donald Trump has enlisted to challenge the Electoral College vote when Congress convenes in a joint session Wednesday to confirm Biden’s 306-232 win. In statements released last week, they complained about election-related policies of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and decisions by the state Supreme Court, generally concerning the collection and counting of mail-in ballots. “Until these unlawful practices are acknowledged and corrected, we cannot agree to support electors chosen based upon an inaccurate total vote count,” they wrote. Their complaints, however, are based on outright falsehoods, state officials say, and ignore what courts have repeatedly said, constitutional law scholars say.

Full Article: Republican complaints about Pa. election are groundless, state officials and legal scholars argue – The Morning Call

Pennsylvania: Election officials want a say in voting reforms, but politics may get in the way | Marie Albiges/Philadelphia Inquirer

Democrats and Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature haven’t agreed on much when it comes to the 2020 election — only that change is needed. Those changes will be hotly debated during the General Assembly’s next session, which begins this week. Already, two Republicans have proposed eliminating universal mail-in voting altogether, while some Democrats are again pushing in-person early voting. But the people who actually run elections across the state, whose pleas for assistance have been largely ignored by the legislature over the past few months, said they should be front-and-center in the reform process — not partisanship and misinformation. In 2021, they want their voices to be heard. “We feel pretty strongly that we want to be at the table for those conversations with our legislature,” said Sherene Hess, an Indiana County commissioner and chair of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania election reform committee. “There’s no question that we can improve, and now is the time to do it.” Central to the discussions of election law changes will be the state’s expansion of mail-in voting for any registered voter. Passed in 2019 and used for the first time last year in the midst of a pandemic that prevented many from going to the polls, Act 77 contributed to Pennsylvania’s record turnout in the general election, with more than 2.6 million people casting a ballot by mail.

Full Article: Election officials want a say in Pa.’s voting reforms, but politics may get in the way

Pennsylvania: 21 uncounted ballots discovered among Westmoreland County voting equipment | Rich Cholodovsky/Tribune Review

Westmoreland County elections officials disclosed Monday that 21 uncounted provisional ballots submitted at a North Huntingdon voting precinct on Election Day were discovered last week among computer equipment used at the polls in November. Elections bureau staffers found the unopened ballots during a routine inspection of voting machines stored at the department’s Greensburg warehouse on Dec. 28. JoAnn Sebastiani, the county’s elections director, said additional precautions had been enacted ahead of the Nov. 3 election that were designed to prevent the misfiling of ballots returned to the courthouse from the precincts, but those measures were unsuccessful. “Unfortunately, the judge of elections did not follow instructions,” Sebastiani said. The discovered provisional ballots were cast in North Huntingdon’s 4th ward, second precinct at the United Methodist Church on Coulterville Road. Poll workers submitted an empty envelope to elections officials on Nov. 3 at the courthouse that indicated no provisional ballots were cast at the precinct, Sebastiani said. Officials in November processed and counted about 3,800 provisional ballots cast at the county’s 307 voting precincts. The 21 uncounted ballots were found stuffed under a touchscreen computer during routine inspections of the nearly 900 voting machines and 307 scanners placed throughout the county on Election Day. Those machines, along with 900 bins containing the more than 143,000 paper ballots cast at the precincts on Nov. 3, under the state’s election code were required to remain under seal until Nov. 23.

Full Article: Uncounted ballots discovered among Westmoreland County voting equipment |

Pennsylvania election lawsuit over mail ballots that could overturn a race — but not the presidency | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

At its narrowest, Ziccarelli v. Allegheny County Board of Elections is an argument over 2,349 mail ballots cast in Allegheny County that arrived in time but lacked dates filled out on the envelopes. Those ballots, including 311 votes in the 45th Senatorial District, gave incumbent Sen. Jim Brewster, a Democrat, the win by just 69 votes. The state Supreme Court affirmed Allegheny County’s decision to count the votes. But the district crosses into Westmoreland County, one of the counties that decided not to count ballots that lacked dates, classifying them as incomplete. That creates an unfair situation, Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli argued in her federal court lawsuit. Similar votes are being handled differently in different counties, which she says violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. “Based on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s judgment, mail-in ballots will be counted or not counted based solely on the happenstance of which county election board reviews the ballot,” she wrote in her complaint late last month. The real impact of the case, experts said, could be much broader than who wins the seat, possibly clarifying a recurring question that has proven hard to answer in the messy real world: When is it OK for counties in the same state or electoral district to have different policies and run their elections differently?

Full Article: Pennsylvania lawsuit over mail ballots could reshape future elections

Pennsylvania: As he seeks to overturn election, Trump invites state’s GOP senators to White House lunch | Angela Coloumbis/Spotlight PA

As he seeks to overturn Pennsylvania’s election results in the courts, President Donald Trump invited Republican members of the GOP-controlled state Senate to a Wednesday lunch at the White House. The invitation for the luncheon was sent to all GOP lawmakers in the chamber, said Jennifer Kocher, a spokesperson for the caucus. No agenda was included, she said, and it was not immediately known how many senators were attending. The top Republican in the state Senate, Jake Corman of Centre County, had other commitments, Kocher said, and was not planning to go. Aides to newly elected Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. At least one Republican senator, Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, had made arrangements to attend, a legislative source said. Mastriano organized a hearing last month in Gettysburg on unfounded claims of widespread election fraud. Mere hours after the hearing, Mastriano, one of the chamber’s most conservative members, tested positive for covid-19. He received his results when he and a small group of people traveled to the White House that day to meet with Trump, the Associated Press reported. Guests are tested for the virus and Mastriano was forced to leave after testing positive that day. Mastriano could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The White House luncheon comes two days after Corman announced that he will push a measure to create a special committee to “conduct an exhaustive review” of all aspects of last month’s election. “Far too many residents of Pennsylvania are questioning the validity of their votes or have doubt that the process was conducted fairly, securely, and produced accurate results,” he said in a statement.

Full Article: As he seeks to overturn Pa.’s election, Trump invites state’s GOP senators to White House lunch |

Pennsylvania election officials are burnt out and leaving their jobs after 2020 ‘nightmare’ | Spotlight PA

In the weeks before the general election, Sara May-Silfee’s office was overwhelmed. Phone calls from voters were incessant. Lines of people formed outside the building to apply for and cast mail ballots. In one instance, she said, impatient voters began chants outside her office that the waiting times amounted to voter suppression. The Monroe County elections director even got in the habit of closing her office’s shades at night, she said, because voters would knock on the windows, as late as 9, looking for assistance. “It was a nightmare,” May-Silfee said. “Everything was a nightmare.” Even before the pandemic emerged this spring, county election directors said they warned lawmakers and state officials that huge changes to Pennsylvania’s voting system were too much, too fast. Other states took years to implement statewide no-excuse mail voting. They had a few months.Since the passage of Act 77, the 2019 law that made sweeping changes to voting in Pennsylvania, at least 21 election directors and deputy directors from more than a dozen of the state’s 67 counties have left or will soon leave their posts, according to an analysis by Spotlight PA and Votebeat. A dozen current and former election officials said that’s no coincidence. “Mail-in voting has become like a second election that we have to run, that we never had to run before,” Lycoming County Elections Director Forrest Lehman said. “It has almost doubled the workload, and you know, nobody’s salaries have doubled at the same time.” Despite these challenges, Election Day went smoothly, with officials reporting few problems. Still, the people tasked with running elections are drained from dealing with regular verbal attacks from angry voters, confused or suspicious of the process this year.

Full Article: Pa. election officials are burnt out and leaving their jobs after 2020 ‘nightmare’ –

Pennsylvania: Delaware County man charged with registering dead relatives to vote for Trump in presidential election | Vinny Vella/Philadelphia Inquirer

In the weeks leading up to the presidential election, Elizabeth Bartman and Elizabeth Weihman registered to vote as Republicans in Nether Providence Township, Delaware County officials said Monday. There was one problem: Both women had been dead for several years. The man behind those applications, Bruce Bartman, now faces two felony counts of perjury, as well as one count of unlawful voting for successfully casting an absentee ballot for President Donald Trump in the name of Elizabeth Bartman, his long-dead mother. Bartman was arraigned Friday and released on $100,000 unsecured bail. His lawyer, Samuel Stretton, said the 70-year-old takes full responsibility for the crimes, and will cooperate with investigators. “In his political frustration, he chose to do something stupid,” Stretton said. “And for that he is very sorry.” District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Bartman admitted to casting the illegal ballot to “further the campaign of Donald Trump.” But the top prosecutor cautioned that Bartman’s arrest was an isolated incident, and not an indication of larger voting problems in the county. “For all the conspiracy theorists out there, this case today does not represent widespread voter fraud,” Stollsteimer said. “This case was evidence that one person committed voter fraud by casting an improper and illegal ballot.” Bartman used his mother’s driver’s license to register her to vote online, and then requested and filled out an absentee ballot in her name, Stollsteimer said. He repeated the process for Weihman, his mother-in-law, using her Social Security number. The state’s system flagged the information as belonging to a dead person, but Bartman signed a letter confirming the woman was still alive.

Full Article: Delaware County man charged with registering dead relatives to vote in presidential election

Pennsylvania: Trump campaign brings new U.S. Supreme Court challenge over 2020 election | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and overturn several decisions the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made regarding the 2020 election, saying that the court overstepped its bounds and that “the outcome of the election for the Presidency of the United States hangs in the balance.” But even in the unlikely event the new challenge is successful and the court agrees to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania, it would not change his Electoral College win. Biden amassed 306 electoral votes, the same as Trump four years ago — 36 more votes than the 270 needed to win. Pennsylvania has 20 votes. What the challenge would do, if successful, is defy the will of the Pennsylvania voters who cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election under the rules in place at the time. Specifically, the campaign said in its filing, it would throw out 110,000 votes that it says are invalid because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court inappropriately changed election rules. A lawyer representing the campaign said Sunday it had filed a cert petition and a motion to expedite, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to fast-track the case because of the impending Jan. 6 meeting of Congress to receive the Electoral College results and the Jan. 20 inauguration. The challenge is the latest in a series of increasingly long-shot attempts to overturn the election, which Trump lost in Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. The latest attempt, like the others, doesn’t center on any specific claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, despite Trump’s repeated use of baseless conspiracy theories to attack the election.

Full Article: Trump campaign brings new U.S. Supreme Court challenge over Pennsylvania’s 2020 election