Pennsylvania Department of State addresses three Election Day issues, including two in midstate counties | Robby Brod/WITF

Pennsylvania’s primaries mostly went smoothly, but there were three incidents that prompted state officials to respond. Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, said about 22,000 mail-in ballots in Lancaster County printed by a new vendor had a code that couldn’t be read by the scanner. “To address this, the department recommends the best practice of assigning two-person teams to handmark new ballots. One will read out the marking from the original ballot; the second person will mark the ballot,” she said. “There’s also an observer who watches the process to make sure the re-marked ballot is accurate.” She said it will take “days” to count the affected ballots, which involves hand-counting them and putting them through the county-owned optical scan machine. Chapman said other counties in Pennsylvania use the same vendor, but the issue was contained to the Lancaster County ballots. Election officials in Berks County reported programming errors with their new electronic poll books. As a result, some polling places opened late, and lines were reported at about two dozen precincts.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Department of State addresses three Election Day issues, including two in midstate counties | WITF

Pennsylvania: Inside the Lancaster County operation where staff are remarking 16,000 mail ballots that could decide the GOP U.S. Senate primary | Gillian McGoldrick/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The fate of Tuesday’s Republican U.S. Senate primary race has come down to two of the state’s most populous counties — Lancaster and Allegheny — where there are still potentially significant numbers of ballots uncounted in a contest that’s still too close to call. Lancaster County is one of the most populated Republican strongholds in the state, meaning the remaining Republican ballots — approximately 5,500, according to the county’s GOP chair — likely will help decide the outcome of this race. Candidates Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick were still within recount territory — within 0.5% of one another — as of Wednesday afternoon. In Allegheny County, a small number of votes are still uncounted — about 2%. But in a race this close, any of those votes could change the outcome of the election. Those results aren’t expected to be posted until Friday, according to county officials. Christa Miller, the chief elections clerk in Lancaster County, her staff and elections volunteers, are responsible for remarking 16,000 ballots that wouldn’t scan on Tuesday due to a printer error.

Full Article: Inside the Lancaster County operation where staff are remarking 16,000 mail ballots that could decide the GOP U.S. Senate primary | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania elections chief concerned about voter intimidation, says primary results might be delayed | Teresa Boeckel/York Daily Record

Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman voiced concerns about voter intimidation in one Pennsylvania county where a district attorney plans to have detectives watch a drop box. Her remarks came Thursday as she addressed questions from the news media about the May 17 primary. Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin plans to have detectives monitor drop boxes, and anyone who drops off more than one ballot could face a fine or jail time, media outlets have reported. Voters are only allowed to return their own ballot unless they have a disability and a designated agent to submit it. Martin has told news media an investigation showed “hundreds” of voters turned in more than one ballot during the 2021 election. Chapman said no evidence exists of widespread voter fraud through ballot drop boxes.

Full Article: Voter intimidation, delayed primary results possible, PA official says

Pennsylvania: Voting machine maker Dominion wins appeal in GOP election inquiry | Associated Press

Dominion Voting Systems won an appeal in Pennsylvania’s highest court on Monday in a bid to ensure that any inspection of its voting machines as part of Republican lawmakers’ inquiry into Pennsylvania’s 2020 election be done by a laboratory that has specific credentials. The Democratic-majority state Supreme Court ruled 5-2, along party lines, to overturn a January decision by a Republican judge on the lower Commonwealth Court. That judge ruled that Dominion could not intervene in a wider case involving an inspection of its equipment used by heavily Republican Fulton County in 2020′s election.

Full Article: Voting machine maker wins appeal in GOP election inquiry | AP News

Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law has its day in Supreme Court | Stephen Caruso/Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Roles were reversed in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday, as attorneys argued over the fate of the state’s three-year-old mail-in voting law, with lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf arguing to protect legislative power, and lawyers for 14 dissident lawmakers arguing to undo a law that 11 of them had voted to approve. The law, known as Act 77, was declared unconstitutional in a 3-2 January decision by the state’s Commonwealth Court, as it ruled on two challenges to the law — one brought by the Republican lawmakers, as well as a separate one from Bradford County Commissioner Doug McClinko. Act 77 was approved in a deal between the GOP-controlled General Assembly and Democrat Wolf, in which the General Assembly passed no-excuse absentee ballots, and Wolf agreed to eliminate straight-ticket voting. The bill also provided funding to counties to replace decertified voting machines. It passed with near-unanimous Republican support. But a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel that initially invalidated the law ruled that universal mail-in balloting should have been passed as a constitutional amendment, which requires a referendum, rather than as a statute signed into law.

Source: Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law has its day in Supreme Court – Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Pennsylvania: Election experts advise senators to initiate pre-canvassing | Eric Scicchitano/The Daily Item

Bipartisan policy experts advocated during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday that Pennsylvania lawmakers establish a pre-canvassing period that would allow election workers at least three days ahead of an election to prepare mail-in ballots for the formal count. The lack of a pre-canvassing period before polls open causes delays in processing and counting votes now that mail-in ballots are available to any registered elector. This most infamously occurred during the 2020 presidential election when a record 2.6 million mail-in ballots were returned. Local election officials warned months ahead that there would be backups in counting votes. The counts lasted days in many counties, allowing false claims of voter fraud to build. “Extended periods are ripe for the spread of misinformation and disinformation, as we saw in 2020 when former President Trump declared he won the state long before sufficient results were in. This long window was not only predictable but also avoidable,” said Matthew Weil, director of the Elections Project of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in Washington, D.C. … Weil told committee members seven days or longer would be best for pre-canvassing. However, he supports the three days suggested in Senate Bill 878, introduced last September by state Sen. David Argall, R-Berks/Schuylkill, and state Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia.

Full Article: Election experts advise PA senators to initiate pre-canvassing | Don’t Miss This |

A Pennsylvania court overturned the state’s mail voting law, but an appeal means it’s still in place | Jonathan Lai and Andrew Seidman/Philadelphia Inquirer

A Pennsylvania court on Friday struck down the state’s mail voting law, saying the state constitution requires voters to cast ballots in person unless they meet specific requirements. That almost certainly won’t be the final word on the matter, as the state quickly appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, triggering an automatic stay of the decision and leaving Act 77 in place while the high court considers the case. And Democrats believe the Supreme Court, which has a Democratic majority, will uphold the law. Democrats had feared for months that the state’s Commonwealth Court, with its Republican majority, would strike down Act 77. “This opinion is based on twisted logic and faulty reasoning, and is wrong on the law,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, said on Twitter. “We are confident that Act 77 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional.” The final outcome aside, the ruling may add momentum to a GOP push in Harrisburg to enact more restrictive voting laws. Republican candidates for governor celebrated the ruling, and former President Donald Trump issued a statement saying a “great patriotic spirit is developing at a level that nobody thought possible.”

Full Article: Pennsylvania mail voting law Act 77 overturned by Commonwealth Court, state appeals

Court throws Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law into doubt | Marc Levy/Associated Press

A court declared Friday that Pennsylvania’s expansive 2-year-old mail-in voting law violates the state constitution, agreeing with challenges by Republicans who soured on the practice after former President Donald Trump began baselessly attacked it as rife with fraud in his 2020 reelection campaign. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration swiftly appealed to the state Supreme Court, immediately putting the party-line decision by a panel of three Republican and two Democratic judges on hold and stopping it from overturning the law. Still, it throws Pennsylvania’s voting laws into doubt as the presidential battleground state’s voters prepare to elect a new governor and a new U.S. senator in 2022. Just over 2.5 million people voted under the law’s expansion of mail-in voting in 2020′s presidential election, most of them Democrats, out of 6.9 million total cast. Wolf’s office said its appeal means the lower court ruling has no immediate effect, and criticized Republicans as trying to kill the law “in the service of the ‘big lie’” of Trump’s baseless election fraud claims. “We need leaders to support removing more barriers to voting, not trying to silence the people,” Wolf’s office said.

Full Article: Court throws Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law into doubt | AP News

Pennsylvania: Court puts hold on GOP inspection of county voting machines | Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

 An inspection of voting machines in a heavily Republican county in Pennsylvania as part of a GOP “investigation” into the 2020 presidential election was moments away from starting Friday until the state Supreme Court put it on hold. The high court decision came hours after a state judge rejected attempts by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to block the inspection — inspired by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about fraud in the 2020 election he lost — without an agreements over procedure in place. The undertaking comes after Republicans carried out a partisan and widely discredited “audit” in Arizona’s most heavily populated county and Trump and his allies have pressured allies in battleground states he lost to seek out fraud to validate their conspiracy theories. The justices overruled the lower court by granting an emergency request by the governor’s lawyers to stop it for now. The equipment in question — computers, electronic pollbooks, ballot scanners and possibly more — was about to be wheeled in to a special meeting of the Fulton County commissioners just after it started Friday when a lawyer for the county, Tom Breth, said it had to be postponed because the state Supreme Court’s filing office had just notified him the temporary stay was granted.

Full Article: Court puts hold on GOP inspection of county voting machines | AP News

Pennsylvania county’s voting machine review has its roots in 2020 election fraud lies | Sam Dunklau/WITF

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily blocked a data security company hired by state Senate Republicans from examining Fulton County’s voting machines last week. But a legal team representing the county is fighting to get the probe back on track. The standoff has put the focus on those leading that effort, and on questions about the process that remain unanswered. Those who have instigated and supported looking at Fulton County’s machines have ties to organizations and lawmakers who have backed false claims about the last presidential election. The probe is part of a push by a Republican-led state Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Cris Dush (R-Cameron), to investigate Pennsylvania’s last several elections, despite audits confirming results and a previous Senate election review that yielded suggestions about how to make Election Day run more smoothly in Pennsylvania. Dush and others haven’t been clear about why they want to probe Fulton County’s voting machines. But lawyer Thomas Breth of western Pennsylvania firm Dillon McCandless King Coulter & Graham, who is representing the county, said it doesn’t matter. “We’re not going to second-guess a request coming from the chairman of a committee within the Pennsylvania Senate. As a governmental entity ourselves, we have a constitutional obligation to cooperate with other governmental entities,” Breth said before the Supreme Court court decision Friday.

Full Article: A Pennsylvania county’s voting machine review has its roots in 2020 election fraud lies | WITF

Pennsylvania court declines request to quash Senate GOP election investigation subpoena, needs more time for review | Marley Parrish/Pennsylvania Capital-Star

The legislative subpoena issued as part of the taxpayer-funded election investigation is on hold, following a Monday Commonwealth Court decision to take more time to evaluate a Senate panel’s request for millions of voters’ driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers. That means the legal request, issued by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee in a September vote along party lines, is delayed as the case enters into a fact-finding hearing with discovery and witness testimony. The unsigned, 7-page order comes nearly a month after a panel of five judges heard arguments in the case brought by legislative Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro to challenge the review of the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections. They have also raised concerns that Envoy Sage, LLC, an Iowa-based company selected for the investigation, has not outlined specific security measures and has no direct election-related experience. The Commonwealth Court said that it could not conclude that challengers affirmed “a clear, legal right to quash the subpoena” by arguing that the seldom-used Senate panel does not have the legislative power to request voters’ identifying information. The court also wrote that there is “substantial factual question surrounding the federal protection requirements and the capability of the Senate committee’s contracted vendor, Envoy Sage, LLC, to protect the infrastructure information.” Most of the requested information is publicly available. State law, however, prohibits the public release of someone’s driver’s license number and Social Security number.

Full Article: Pa. court declines request to quash Senate GOP election investigation subpoena, needs more time for review – Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Pennsylvania court asked to require accredited lab in GOP ‘investigation’ | Associated Press

Dominion Voting Systems has asked a court to restrict any inspection of its voting machines as part of what Republican lawmakers call a “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election to a laboratory that has specific credentials. The Denver-based voting-system manufacturer filed paperwork in court Monday evening as Republican lawmakers move to inspect Dominion’s machines and software in southern Pennsylvania’s sparsely populated Fulton County using an unaccredited contractor that has no election experience. In its court papers, Dominion requested an order requiring that any inspection be conducted by a federally accredited voting system test lab or a national laboratory used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Fulton county heavily backed former President Donald Trump, whose baseless claims about election fraud in 2020′s presidential election have propelled various Republican endeavors to search for fraud in states Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Full Article: Court asked to require accredited lab in GOP ‘investigation’ | AP News

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will appoint mail voting advocate Leigh M. Chapman to be new top elections official | Philadelphia Inquirer

Gov. Tom Wolf plans to appoint Leigh M. Chapman, a lawyer who leads a nonprofit that promotes mail voting, to be the state’s next top elections official, tasking her with overseeing a midterm election cycle that will bring national scrutiny to Pennsylvania while the state fends off continued GOP attacks stemming from the 2020 presidential election. Chapman will become acting secretary of the commonwealth on Jan. 8, Wolf announced Monday. She previously served as policy director in the agency she will soon head, the Department of State, from 2015 to 2017. “Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure that voting rights are protected, and to improve access to the ballot box,” Chapman said. “I look forward to continuing that work in my new role, and to build on the tremendously successful election reforms in Pennsylvania over the last several years.” Chapman will replace Veronica Degraffenreid, who received praise from Wolf for overseeing the office in an acting capacity following the February resignation of the last permanent secretary, Kathy Boockvar. Wolf originally intended to elevate Degraffenreid to a permanent role in the office but withdrew the nomination after she clashed with Senate Republicans over their controversial review of the 2020 presidential election. She will become a special adviser to Wolf after Chapman takes over the department. Wolf’s announcement Monday was silent on whether he intended Chapman to assume the secretary role on a permanent basis, which would require legislative confirmation. “She will be acting secretary, where she will be able to perform the full duties and responsibilities of a confirmed secretary,” Wolf spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer said in a separate statement.

Full Article: Gov. Tom Wolf will appoint mail voting advocate Leigh M. Chapman to be Pa.’s new top elections official

Pennsylvania judge rules Republicans have to wait until next month before working out rules for inspection of voting machines | Associated Press

Republican lawmakers aiming to expand what they call a “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election into a new frontier of inspecting voting machines must wait until next month, a judge decided Tuesday. After a telephone conference, Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt sided with a lawyer for Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and said that Fulton County must first work out an agreed-upon set of rules for an inspection. Leavitt gave them until Jan. 10, at the suggestion of a lawyer representing Wolf’s top election official in a separate lawsuit involving Fulton County’s voting machines. In that lawsuit, Fulton County is contesting the state’s decertification of voting machines it used in last year’s presidential election. State lawyers last week discovered that Fulton County commissioners had voted to allow a contractor hired by Senate Republicans to download data and software on the voting systems. The exchange had been scheduled for Wednesday.

Full Article: Republicans have to wait until next month before working out rules for inspection of voting machines, Pennsylvania judge rules – The Morning Call

Pennsylvania: Court battle over GOP’s subpoena of sensitive voter data centers on legislative power vs. privacy | Danielle Ohl/Spotlight PA

An appellate court leveled sharp questions Wednesday in the opening round of a closely watched court case over whether Republicans in the state Senate have the power to subpoena sensitive voter information as part of a partisan inquiry into the 2020 election. A coalition of Democrats is seeking an order quashing the subpoena and argues it goes too far by requesting information — including the names, addresses, and partial Social Security numbers — for nearly 9 million registered voters in the state. Republicans who control the state Senate say they believe the sweeping review is necessary to ensure that there were no irregularities in the 2020 election, citing the state’s evolving guidance last year about how counties should handle mail-in and other ballots. GOP legislative leaders have acknowledged, however, that they have found no evidence of fraud. Several official reviews have affirmed the outcome of Pennsylvania’s election. Lawyers for Senate Democrats, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and Sen. Art Haywood and his wife Julie Haywood, as private citizens, argued that a balancing test should be applied to weigh the necessity of the investigation against the possible disclosure of private information. The Democrats were joined by the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Full Article: Court battle over Pa. GOP’s subpoena of sensitive voter data centers on legislative power vs. privacy · Spotlight PA

Pennsylvania: Questions remain about GOP’s election ‘investigation’ | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Many questions remain unanswered Tuesday as to what Republicans in Pennsylvania’s Senate can accomplish from what they call a “forensic investigation” into last year’s presidential election now that they have hired a contractor that has not pointed to any experience in elections. Senate Republicans last week hired the Iowa-based Envoy Sage onto a $270,000 contract to help carry out the undertaking, fueled by pressure from former President Donald Trump and his allies in a search for fraud across battleground states to back up their baseless allegations that the election was stolen. In a brief conference call with reporters Tuesday, Steve Lahr, Envoy Sage’s president, said the company could hire people or subcontractors with expertise, if necessary. … Mark Lindeman, a political scientist who has written on and consulted on post-election audits, said many people have experience in working closely with various kinds of election records and equipment, such as paper ballots, vote totals and registration and voting records. “Experience matters because novices can misinterpret the routine quirks of elections as anomalies or evidence of fraud,” said Lindeman, who works for Verified Voting, which advocates for election integrity and the responsible use of election technology. For instance, Lindeman said, Republicans’ widely discredited election “audit” carried out in Arizona’s Maricopa County was riddled with unfounded allegations based on basic misunderstandings. “Inexperienced, partisan consultants tend to leap to invidious conclusions,” Lindeman said. “They shouldn’t lead serious investigations.”

Full Article: Questions remain about GOP’s election ‘investigation’ | AP News

Pennsylvania House Republicans threaten to remove Lehigh County elections board unless it rescinds acceptance of undated ballots | Ford Turner/The Morning Call

Top Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Wednesday threatened to remove members of the Lehigh County Board of Elections unless they rescind a decision to allow counting of mail-in ballots without dates that were submitted in the municipal election this month. The Republicans, who included House Speaker Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, said in a letter to board members dated Wednesday that failure to take action promptly would lead House members to “seek your removal from office using the authority vested to the House of Representatives” for impeachment proceedings. Republicans hold the majority in the House and hence control its committees and their actions. The Lehigh board is composed of Chair Dan McCarthy, Doris Glaessmann and Jane Ervin, who are volunteers. On Monday, they voted unanimously to count 260 mail-in ballots that were submitted without dates on the outer envelopes as required, according to Tim Benyo, chief clerk to the board. Following that decision, two candidates for a Lehigh County judge seat — Republican David Ritter and Democrat Zachary Cohen — said they would go to court with unsettled questions about the state’s vote-by-mail law. Ritter has a 74-vote lead over Cohen, according to unofficial totals.

Full Article: Pennsylvania House Republicans threaten to remove Lehigh County elections board unless it rescinds acceptance of undated ballots – The Morning Call

Pennsylvania Senate GOP identifies vendor that will ‘conduct a thorough and impartial election investigation’ | Jan Murphy/PennLive

The GOP-led Senate committee has identified the private contractor it will hire to assist in its taxpayer-funded review of the 2020 presidential election. A document shared with Republican senators Thursday evening obtained by PennLive identifies the firm as Dubuque, Iowa-based Envoy Sage LLC. The firm bills itself on its website as “delivering ground truth” and identifies itself as specializing in research, investigation, program management and communications. The document states the firm “meets all the key needs to conduct a thorough and impartial election investigation.” It also states the firm has no political association with candidates who appeared on the 2020 or 2021 ballots in Pennsylvania. Among other qualifications it lists, Envoy Sage has worked with the Department of Defense under Republican and Democratic administrations and has decades of experience in handling sensitive and classified information. Senate Republican spokesman Jason Thompson declined comment about the document. It doesn’t indicate how much the firm will be paid although the costs will come out of the GOP caucus’ accounts.

Full Article: Senate GOP identifies vendor that will ‘conduct a thorough and impartial election investigation’ –

Pennsylvania’s Desperate Scramble to Stop an Insider Election Threat | Russell Berman/The Atlantic

The people who fear the most for the future of American democracy weren’t watching the election returns in Virginia and New Jersey earlier this month for clues about next year’s midterms. These voting-rights advocates didn’t pay much attention to who won mayoral or school-board races. Instead, they’ve spent the past two weeks trying to discern how many Donald Trump loyalists captured control of elections in a pivotal 2024 swing state: Pennsylvania. Voters across the Keystone State decided who will run their polling places in the next two elections, but you could forgive them if they didn’t realize it. Buried near the bottom of their ballots on November 2 were a pair of posts: judge of elections and inspector of elections, bureaucratic titles that most people have never heard of. In many counties, the contests didn’t even make the first page of local races, falling far beneath those for supreme-court justice, county executive, and the school board—even tax collector and constable merited higher placement. Yet the people who hold these election positions will play an important—if often overlooked—role in determining whether elections in Pennsylvania go off smoothly. Grassroots Republican supporters of Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 defeat targeted these posts throughout the state, and many of them won their race last week. “There hasn’t been a sophisticated, concerted effort to sabotage elections like the one we’re facing now,” Scott Seeborg, the Pennsylvania state director for the nonpartisan group All Voting Is Local, told me. For the next four years, judges and inspectors of elections will supervise polling places and ensure that votes are properly tabulated. Individually, they preside over a single precinct covering, at most, a few thousand ballots. But in the aggregate, the decisions made at such a hyperlocal level could tip close statewide or congressional elections, says Victoria Bassetti, a senior adviser to the nonpartisan States United Democracy Center. “It could add up, precinct after precinct after precinct,” Bassetti told me. Biased judges or inspectors might, directly or indirectly, skew a vote or two per precinct. “If people who are biased are elected to serve in these local positions anywhere in the country,” she said, “it ultimately could have a huge impact on how our democracy functions.”

Full Article: Pennsylvania Hopes to Stop an Insider Election Threat – The Atlantic

Pennsylvania judge race with narrow margin will get recount | Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

The results of a tight race for a seat on the statewide Commonwealth Court will be recounted because two candidates finished within a half-percentage point of each other in last week’s election, the Pennsylvania Department of State announced Wednesday. The race pits Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Lori Dumas, the Democrat, against former Pennsylvania Senate Republican aide Drew Crompton, who was appointed last year to fill a Commonwealth Court vacancy until a replacement could be elected. Commonwealth Court handles cases involving state government and local governments. Two seats on Commonwealth Court were on the ballot, both held most recently by Republicans. The lead vote-getter last week, McKean County Republican lawyer Stacy Wallace, is deemed to have secured one of them, the department said. For the second seat, unofficial returns have Dumas leading Crompton by nearly 17,000 votes, well within the margin for a government-paid recount. Those unofficial returns show Dumas with 1.29 million votes, or 25.36%, and Crompton with 1.27 million votes, or 25.03%.

Full Article: Pennsylvania judge race with narrow margin will get recount

Pennsylvania’s election was sleepy compared with 2020. Some voters still saw high stakes: ‘The country’s just in such a state.’ | Andrew Seidman and Julia Terruso/Philadelphia Inquirer

In some ways, the 2021 election was similar to last year’s. Lots of Pennsylvania voters chose to cast ballots by mail — about 736,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, something not possible a couple of years ago. And partisan tensions flared at some polls, with debate over the future of the country, even in highly contentious school board races. But in most ways, Tuesday’s election was nothing like 2020. The glare of the national spotlight on Pennsylvania had faded. Elections officials said the process was relatively smooth and complaint-free. And unlike last year’s record, officials were expecting a low turnout typical for off-year elections. In one marquee race, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was projected to handily win reelection against Republican Chuck Peruto, the expected outcome in a city with seven times as many Democrats as Republicans. But in other races, the night was shaping up as a strong night for the GOP. A little before 1 a.m., New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was in an unexpectedly tight battle with Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli. And minutes later, the Associated Press projected Republican Kevin Brobson would beat Democrat Maria McLaughlin for a seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. In perhaps the nation’s highest-profile race — in Virginia, the only state other than New Jersey picking a governor —Republican Glenn Youngkin topped Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who previously held the office. Both parties will be scrutinizing the results in those and other races for evidence about the views of the electorate as they prepare for the first midterm election of Joe Biden’s presidency next year. Republicans were hoping to capitalize on Biden’s declining approval ratings, voters’ discontent with rising inflation, and controversy over how race is taught in public schools to win contests in blue states like Virginia and purple ones like Pennsylvania. And such divisions were apparent even in municipal elections. “The country’s just in such a state,” said Donna Weickel, 77, after she and her husband cast their votes for Republicans in Buckingham Township, Bucks County.

Full Article: Pa.’s election was sleepy compared with 2020. Some voters still saw high stakes: ‘The country’s just in such a state.’

Pennsylvania: Republican lawsuit over mail-in ballots in Delaware County dismissed by judge | Rob Tornoe/Philadelphia Inquirer

A petition over 670 flawed mail-in ballots filed by a lawyer for two Republican candidates running for Delaware County Council was largely dismissed ahead of Tuesday’s election. The lawsuit, filed by longtime Republican lawyer Michael Puppio, asked for an emergency hearing over the absentee ballots that Delaware County acknowledged were mailed to the wrong addresses, as well as more than 5,000 ballots that were mailed out late by a vendor. Common Pleas Court Judge Kelly Eckel dismissed the bulk of the lawsuit Monday night, ruling that the board of election will continue to oversee Tuesday’s election after putting safeguards in place and correcting the ballot issues. The judge will allow two watchers — one from each political party — to monitor the mail-in ballots in Delaware County for any irregularities. The 670 ballots in question were mailed to addresses that did not match the voter information on the ballot inside. The county said it has taken steps to identify those ballots and send new ones to the voters who received them. Delaware County Solicitor Bill Martin criticized Republicans for attempting to wrestle control of the election out of the hands of the county board of elections over an issue he said had already been “appropriately remedied.”

Full Article: Republican lawsuit over mail-in ballots in Delaware County dismissed by judge

Pennsylvania voting official sues Trump, Giuliani, others over 2020 allegations | Betsy Woddruff Swan, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein/Politico

The supervisor of a voting machine warehouse in the Philadelphia suburbs is suing Donald Trump and top political advisers in a Philadelphia-based county court, saying the former president slandered him during a months-long effort to overturn the 2020 election results. In a 60-page lawsuit, James Savage, the voting machine warehouse custodian in Delaware County, says that in the aftermath of Trump’s effort, he suffered two heart attacks and has regularly received threats. In addition to Trump, he’s suing some of Trump’s key advisers, including his former campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, who has largely escaped investigators’ scrutiny so far. “Simply put, Mr. Savage’s physical safety, and his reputation, were acceptable collateral damage for the wicked intentions of the Defendants herein,” says Savage’s attorney J. Conor Corcoran, “executed during their lubricious attempt to question the legitimacy of President Joseph Biden’s win in Pennsylvania.” Savage is seeking monetary damages and a jury trial on charges of defamation and civil conspiracy. The suit against Trump, Giuliani, Ellis, local GOP officials and others was first reported by Law360. 

Full Article: Pa. voting official sues Trump, Giuliani, others over 2020 allegations – POLITICO

Pennsylvania elections officials brace for 2021 vote in toxic political climate | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

This is supposed to be a low-key election. But there’s no such thing anymore for the people who actually run elections in Pennsylvania. Yes, voter turnout drops significantly after a presidential race, as public interest dissipates and the stakes feel lower. And officials haven’t had to scramble to respond to changing election rules the way they did last year. But after a year of Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election tearing at the country’s political fabric, anxiety is as high as ever for local elections officials before polls open Tuesday, according to interviews with about a dozen of them. They used to toil in obscurity for little pay or recognition. Now they’re targets. They continue to face anger and baseless accusations from voters and even other elected officials. The threats and harassment of last year have lessened, but they haven’t gone away. And when the small technical or human errors that have long been a benign feature of American elections pop up, they brace themselves for it to be weaponized, spun, or just amplified in a way that erodes voter trust. “It’s definitely different, and it’s not as fun as it used to be,” said Tim Benyo, the chief elections clerk for Lehigh County. “Now everyone attacks, and you’ve got to talk them off the ledge to try to get them to see how things really are.” “I catch myself mentally preparing to see what fire I have to put out,” added Benyo, who’s been running Pennsylvania elections since 2008.

Full Article: Pennsylvania elections officials brace for 2021 vote in toxic political climate

Pennsylvania GOP Commissioner Details Death Threats: ‘RINOs Stole Election, We Steal Lives’ | Aila Slisco/Newsweek

A Republican Pennsylvania election official has detailed death threats he received from supporters of former President Donald Trump after refusing to back the ex-president’s false claims about massive election fraud. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the official responsible for overseeing the 2020 election in Pennsylvania’s biggest city, made the remarks while testifying at a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing on Tuesday. He said that supporters of the former president labeled him a “traitor” and a RINO, short for “Republican in name only,” for correctly counting the votes. “I am a Republican and I believe that counting votes in our democracy is a sacred responsibility,” Schmidt told the committee. “For doing my job, counting votes, I’d like to quickly share with you some of the messages sent to me and my family.” Schmidt then read a message that demanded he “tell the truth or your three kids will be fatally shot.” The threatening message also contained Schmidt’s home address, the names of each of his children and a picture of his house.

Full Article: ‘RINOs Stole Election, We Steal Lives’: Pennsylvania GOP Commissioner Details Death Threats

Pennsylvania’s election audit on hold amid lawsuit | Christen Smith/The Center Square

Pennsylvania’s election audit remains on hold this week as Senate Republicans defend their subpoena for voter records that Democrats contested in Commonwealth Court as unconstitutional. “Our filing on Friday is scheduled as part of an expedited review petition to the court that is designed to resolve the court case as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Cris Dush, R-Wellsboro, of the audit on Thursday. Dush leads the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee charged with handling the controversial probe. In its Sept. 15 subpoena, the committee asked for personal identifying information – including names, birth dates, addresses and partial social security numbers – for up to 9 million registered voters. Dush said the information will help auditors verify the identity of each and every resident who voted in the 2020 general election and 2021 primary election. Five days later, Democrats filed a legal challenge in Commonwealth Court against what they called a constitutional overreach that jeopardizes the safety of voters’ personal information. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running to succeed Gov. Tom Wolf in 2022, joined in the challenge the following week.

Full Article: Pennsylvania’s election audit on hold amid lawsuit

Pennsylvania court allows lawsuit to decertify Northampton County voting machines to move forward | Peter Hall/The Morning Call

A Pennsylvania judge ruled a lawsuit to block the use of electronic voting machines used in Northampton County and elsewhere can move forward. Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin P. Brobson on Monday rejected arguments by the state’s top election official that election security advocates and more than a dozen Pennsylvania voters lacked standing and had failed to make valid claims about the ExpressVote XL voting machines used in Northampton and Philadelphia counties. The National Election Defense Coalition and Citizens for Better Elections filed a petition in January 2020 seeking a preliminary injunction requiring the state to decertify the ExpressVote XL electronic voting system for the primary and general election. It cited information from voters about security concerns and trouble using the machines and a “no confidence” vote by the Northampton County elections board, and said there is “no way to restore voters’ trust in the machines.” Attorney Ron Fein, who represents the petitioners, said his clients look forward to reviewing documents and interviewing potential witnesses in the case. “The court rejected every one of the secretary of state’s arguments,” Fein said. “The plaintiffs look forward to conducting discovery, examining the ExpressVote XL machine and presenting evidence it never should have been certified at trial.” A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State said it had no comment on the decision. Brobson, who authored the opinion for the three-judge panel, is the Republican candidate for a seat on the state Supreme Court this November.

Full Article: Northampton County voting machine lawsuit can move forward – The Morning Call

Pennsylvania Republican lawsuits over Act 77 election law have Democrats quietly worried | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Two years ago this month, Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg reached a deal on the most significant changes to Pennsylvania election law in decades — including greatly expanded mail voting. But now, a year after a presidential race in which Donald Trump’s lies about mail voting and Pennsylvania’s results sowed distrust of the electoral system among his supporters, some Republicans are intensifying efforts to undo a law their party almost universally supported. The law known as Act 77 is facing perhaps its most serious court challenges yet. Republicans filed two lawsuits this summer saying it violates the state constitution. Democrats had hoped courts would quickly throw them out, but the cases have instead been combined and continue to move forward. The national and state Democratic Party organizations asked Friday to join the litigation in defense of Act 77. During oral arguments in one case, a panel of judges aggressively questioned lawyers representing the state, in what one Democratic observer described as “skepticism and hostility.” The hearing raised fears among Democrats that the state court might soon rule against the law. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration would almost certainly appeal a loss to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where a majority-Democratic bench has generally sided with the state on election issues. But while few believe the Supreme Court would ultimately throw out Act 77, some Democrats and good-government advocates worry that even a temporary loss could create significant challenges.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Republican lawsuits over Act 77 election law have Democrats quietly worried

Pennsylvania GOP wants personal voter data to root out fraud, but state already uses a more secure system | Danielle Ohl/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pennsylvania has spent nearly half a million dollars over the past six years to find and remove outdated registrations from its voter database, a process Senate Republicans now want to take up in a partisan-driven review at added expense to taxpayers. In the weeks since approving a far-reaching subpoena seeking access to sensitive voter information, GOP lawmakers in favor of the effort have claimed the vast troves of data are necessary to identify voters who shouldn’t have cast a ballot in either the November 2020 or May 2021 elections. The senators in charge of the investigation have not defined how they will prove a voter is “illegal” if they suspect fraud, nor have they acknowledged that Pennsylvania has already spent $403,904 for access to a sophisticated voter list maintenance program that regularly performs the analysis Republicans say they are seeking. Senate Republicans, in justifying the investigation, have claimed there is a need to investigate the “validity” of ballots cast during the previous elections, despite several court cases that found no evidence of widespread fraud. They have often pointed to a 2019 auditor general report identifying potential birthdate inaccuracies and duplicate information in fewer than 1% of voter registrations. The Department of State at the time pushed back on the auditor general’s analysis, saying it had “incorrectly flagged thousands of records as potential concerns.”

Full Article: GOP wants personal voter data to root out fraud, but Pa. already uses a more secure system |

Pennsylvania Republican made a big claim to defend the party’s election review. There’s no evidence for it. | Jonathan Lai and Andrew Seidman/Philadelphia Inquirer

Days after Pennsylvania Republicans subpoenaed Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration for millions of voters’ personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, the head of the Senate GOP acknowledged the request was “intrusive.” But, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward said, the subpoena simply demanded the same records the administration had already disclosed to third parties. Not only that, but those outside groups could have compromised the voter rolls, she suggested last month: “We don’t know what information they could add to the system. We don’t know what information they could take from the system.” It was a striking claim. Trump supporters have been pushing similar claims for months, and the Republican senator leading the party’s new election review has said lawmakers will be “digging into” the issue. But there’s no evidence to support it. A top Pennsylvania elections official said in sworn testimony earlier this year that outside groups had no such access. House Republicans investigating the matter accepted his explanation. Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), House Republicans’ point person on elections, said he’s concluded there’s nothing to it: “Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Full Article: Defending subpoena for Pennsylvania Republican election review, Kim Ward misstates facts