Pennsylvania: What you need to know about election recounts in Pennsylvania | Carter Walker/Votebeat

In 2020, former President Donald Trump’s campaign paid $3 million so Wisconsin would recount votes in two counties. The result: Joe Biden’s lead grew by 87 votes. Such a recount would not be possible in Pennsylvania. Here, a recount is automatically ordered if a statewide race falls within a certain margin. Voters can also initiate recounts in their own precincts. With another highly contentious rematch between the two on the table for this November, an automatic recount cannot be ruled out. In recent years, supporters of losing candidates have also initiated precinct-level recounts that have little chance of changing a race’s outcome but can be used to disrupt the election process. Read Article

Pennsylvania voting rights groups are suing to allow undated ballots to be counted. They hope to win before November’s election. | Katie Bernard/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania voting rights groups are once again seeking to overturn a state law that bars undated or incorrectly dated mail ballots from being counted. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Public Interest Law Center filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on behalf of eight voting rights and civil rights organizations. The suit, which was filed against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Al Schmidt and election officials in Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties, argues that the disqualification of undated ballots violates the Pennsylvania Constitution, which guarantees a right to vote in free and equal elections. Read Article

Pennsylvania election directors like new mail ballot materials, even as some voters filled them out improperly | Ford Turner/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Scores of April primary election mail ballots were rejected in some areas of Pennsylvania because voters failed to put the last two digits of the year on newly redesigned ballot materials – but that didn’t stop officials from giving the redesign a thumbs-up. The redesign, announced by the administration of Gov. Josh Shapiro late last year, was intended to decrease voter confusion associated with mail ballots, which debuted on a broad scale in 2020. Among other things, the redesign involved easily identifiable secrecy envelopes, standardized full-page instructions with graphics, and a pre-filled “20” at the beginning of the ‘year’ space on the outside or “declaration” envelope. Secretary of State Al Schmidt earlier this month said counties reported a 13.5% decrease from 2023 in mail ballots rejected for the reasons that the state had tried to address. Read Article

Pennsylvania counties finish second audit of primary results before state certification | Jordan Wilkie/WITF

Pennsylvania’s primary results are still unofficial. To be approved, counties go through several processes to make sure everything worked well. A big step is auditing votes to make sure they were counted correctly on primary night. Counties finished the process today, the last major hurdle before Monday’s certification deadline. Results go through two checks. The first is a 2% audit. The second is a newer method called a risk-limiting audit. Commonly called an RLA, it is considered the gold standard tabulation audit recommended by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Mark Lindeman, policy director with the election technology and security nonprofit Verified Voting, helped the state design its RLA system. … “The math is complicated, but the idea is simple,” Lindeman said. “If you check vote counts from all over the state and they all can come back fine, you have pretty strong assurance that the vote counts are good.” Read Article

Pennsylvania: ACLU lawsuit targets mail ballot ‘notice and cure’ policy | Carter Walker/Votebeat

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is suing one county, and may file more cases, in an effort to challenge a policy that it says disenfranchises voters who make an error when casting ballots by mail. The case against Butler County, filed after the April primary, appears to be the start of a broader statewide effort by the group targeting the “notice and cure” process, a major gray area in state law that leads to uneven rules for voters across Pennsylvania. Along with that lawsuit, the organization has signaled it is considering another lawsuit, and has been filing public records requests to identify more counties that don’t allow voters to correct flawed mail ballots or provide notice to voters that their ballot will be rejected. Such records requests are often a precursor to a lawsuit. Read Article

Pennsylvania sees fewer mail ballots rejected for technicalities, a priority for election officials | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Pennsylvania election officials said Wednesday that the rate of mail-in ballots rejected for technicalities, like a missing date, saw a significant drop in last month’s primary election after state officials tried anew to help voters avoid mistakes that might get their ballots thrown out. Secretary of State Al Schmidt, said counties reported a 13.5% decrease in mail-in ballots that were rejected for reasons the state had tried to address with a redesigned ballot envelope and instructions for voting by mail. That drop was calculated in comparison to the 2023 primary election. Read Articles

Pennsylvania state House advances bill to give counties more time to count mail ballots | Carter Walker/Spotlight PA

Pennsylvania House Democrats are again pushing to allow counties time to process mail ballots before the day of the election. But the effort appears doomed because of the Senate GOP majority’s insistence on pairing the measure with an expanded voter ID law. A House bill passed Wednesday in a party line vote would allow counties up to seven days before election day to open ballot envelopes and run ballots through scanning machines, though results would still be tabulated on the day of the election. Currently, counties cannot begin processing mail ballots until the morning of the election, which means counties with large numbers of mail ballots may need additional days to finish counting and report complete results. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Democrats advance election bill long sought by counties to process ballots faster | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill long sought by counties seeking help to manage huge influxes of mail-in ballots during elections in the presidential battleground state and to avoid a repeat of 2020’s drawn-out vote count. The bill comes barely six months before Pennsylvania could play a decisive role in selecting the next president in November’s election. The bill passed on party lines, 102-99, as Democrats backed it and Republicans opposed it, warning that it would open the door to fraud. Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, supports the bill, and on Wednesday issued a statement urging the Senate to pass it but it faces long odds in the Republican-controlled chamber. Read Article

Pennsylvania’s redesigned mail ballot envelopes trip up many voters who left date incomplete | Carter Walker/Votebeat

A design change to Pennsylvania’s mail ballot return envelope aimed at reducing errors has led to rejected ballots in the primary, as voters fail to fill in the last two digits of the year despite the state’s new advice to count them. While the Department of State advised counties to accept these ballots, some reject them, citing discrepancies with existing court orders and concerns over the validity of the advice. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Missing voting machine documents raise concern about Northampton County’s testing processes | Carter Walker/Votebeat

bDuring a November election in Northampton County, voters encountered a concerning issue: votes intended for one judge appeared under another’s name on printed records, highlighting a programming error in the voting machines. Although this error didn’t affect the vote tabulation, it underscored the importance of rigorous pre-election testing. However, an investigation revealed that Northampton County’s testing documentation was incomplete, inconsistent, and sometimes missing altogether, making it challenging to verify proper testing. While the errors didn’t indicate machine malfunction or malfeasance, they risked undermining voter confidence and fueling conspiracy theories. In response, Read Article

Pennsylvania: What could trigger costly, time-consuming election recounts? 3 signatures and $50. | Bruce Siwy/Erie Times-News

Some organizations, like Better PA, advocate for changes to Pennsylvania’s recount system, citing concerns about potential post-election chaos and bad-faith efforts. John Jones III and others argue for more stringent rules to initiate recounts, emphasizing the need to avoid disruptions in the electoral certification process. While the current law allows for recounts under certain conditions, including a narrow margin between candidates, critics argue that the system lacks clarity and could lead to delays in certification. Better PA proposes several changes, such as increasing filing fees and requiring detailed allegations of fraud or error in the election. Despite these calls for reform, there’s currently no legislative action on the matter in Harrisburg, and the outlook for changes before the November general election appears unlikely. Read Article

New U.S. deadline for certifying election results adds to pressure on Pennsylvania officials | Carter Walker/Votebeat

After the 2022 elections, a flurry of precinct-level recount petitions prevented Pennsylvania from certifying its election results until Dec. 22 — weeks later than usual. This year presents an even more difficult scenario: a new federal law that says states must certify their slate of presidential electoral votes by Dec. 11. That’s about five weeks after Election Day. Election officials and policy advocates are concerned that another influx of recount petitions after a much busier election could make it harder for Pennsylvania and its counties to meet the tighter timeline. If the state can’t comply, they worry, the courts may have to get involved and force certification, providing fodder to those looking to challenge the state’s results in a year when the margin of victory is expected to be much closer than in most midterm races. Read Article

Pennsylvania can require voters to put a date on mail ballots, U.S. appeals court rules | Carter Walker/Votebeat

A federal appeals court decision upholding Pennsylvania’s rules for voting by mail could mean that tens of thousands of ballots are rejected in this year’s election because they lack a date or are misdated. But the full impact of the ruling is still up in the air while the parties who brought the case decide whether to appeal. A panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Wednesday that a Pennsylvania law requiring mail voters to handwrite a date on the return envelope did not violate a provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that’s meant to protect voters from being denied the right to register to vote. The decision could have broad implications: If plaintiffs appeal to the Supreme Court and justices uphold it, it could become precedent for the entire country, rather than just the jurisdictions in the 3rd Circuit. Such a ruling could limit how the Civil Rights Act applies to requirements for casting a ballot. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Overworked, underpaid, under attack: on the frontlines in a US election office | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Emily Cook, the deputy director in the Luzerne County election office, found herself thrust into a chaotic situation on election day in November 2022 when reports of paper shortages at polling locations flooded in. As tensions escalated, she faced harassment and threats, reflecting a broader trend of election officials leaving their positions due to similar pressures nationwide since 2020. Cook, who has witnessed high turnover in her office, now finds herself as the acting election director, grappling with the challenge of stabilizing the bureau amidst political uncertainty and public distrust. Despite the daunting task ahead, Cook remains committed to restoring confidence in the county’s electoral processes, recognizing the importance of transparency and perseverance in the face of adversity. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Cybersecurity experts urge return to hand-marked paper ballots | Peter Hall/Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Hand marked paper ballots that are electronically scanned and stored for future review are the basis of a resilient and trustworthy election system, cybersecurity and election integrity experts told Pennsylvania Senate lawmakers on Monday. They urged members of the Senate State Government Committee to move Pennsylvania away from the use of electronic ballot marking devices, such as the touchscreen voting machines used by the state’s most populous county, Philadelphia, and in Northampton County, where errors involving the machines have twice raised questions about their accuracy. “Election security requires considering a wide range of threats to elections, from simple rainstorms to sophisticated adversaries,” said Kevin Skoglund, president and chief technologist for Citizens for Better Elections, a non-partisan group based in Pennsylvania. “With so many types of threats it may be surprising to learn that the majority of the security risks can be mitigated through two measures: resilience planning, and evidence based elections.” Read Article

Pennsylvania: Replacing some voting machines gains bi-partisan support in State Senate | Jordan Wilkie/WITF

Election technology experts testified before the Pennsylvania Senate’s State Government Committee, highlighting vulnerabilities in voting machines used across 20 counties, representing 30% of the state’s voters, particularly critiquing the ballot-marking devices. The experts recommended phasing out the use of ballot marking devices for all voters and transitioning to hand-marked paper ballots, aligning with best practices for election security. Read Article

Pennsylvania: There’s new leadership in Fulton County. They still chase Trump’s 2020 grievances. | Bruce Siwy and Amber South/Chambersburg Public Opinion

Despite facing repeated court rejections, Fulton County commissioners persist in their challenge to the 2020 election, much to the chagrin of taxpayers who are now liable for legal fees potentially exceeding $1 million. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling of contempt in April penalized the county for permitting multiple third-party inspections of Dominion Voting Systems machines, resulting in hefty legal costs. While newly elected commissioners initially resisted continuing the legal battle, they eventually voted to appeal, prompting concerns about the financial burden on taxpayers. Despite judicial dismissals citing the minimal impact of alleged errors in voting machines, commissioners, backed by pro bono counsel connected to former President Trump’s election challenges, remain determined, even as their attorney faces felony charges in Michigan related to improper acquisition of voting equipment. Read Article

Pennsylvania: What to know about electronic pollbooks, which counties use them, and more | Katie Meyer/Spotlight PA

Pennsylvania is gradually introducing electronic pollbooks (e-pollbooks) in more counties ahead of the 2024 presidential election, aiming to streamline the voting process and enhance efficiency for poll workers. While e-pollbooks simplify voter sign-in and reconciliation processes, concerns about cybersecurity persist. Lancaster County piloted e-pollbooks last year, receiving positive feedback from poll workers, but some officials remain cautious, citing cybersecurity apprehensions. The adoption of e-pollbooks varies across counties due to cost considerations, with Philadelphia embracing them for their efficiency benefits, while others lag due to financial constraints. Despite security measures in place, challenges such as technical glitches and the need for comprehensive training persist, underscoring the importance of robust implementation strategies to ensure smooth election operations. Read Article

Pennsylvania court rules electronic voting data is not subject to release under public records law | Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

A Pennsylvania court ruled 5-2 against granting public access to spreadsheets containing raw data associated with every ballot cast in the 2020 General Election in Lycoming County. The case began with a request by election researcher Heather Honey, whose work has been linked to right-wing attacks on voting procedures. The court concluded that the cast vote records, considered the modern equivalent of traditional ballot boxes, are not subject to public scrutiny under the state’s Right-to-Know Law. The majority opinion emphasized that optical scanners used in the election qualify as voting machines, thus falling under the law’s protection of voting machine contents. Despite arguments that releasing the data wouldn’t compromise ballot secrecy, the court upheld the decision, prompting consideration of an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Read Article

Pennsylvania was deluged by election lawsuits in 2020. Experts say 2024 will be even more intense. | by Angela Couloumbis/Spotlight PA

Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania initiated a federal lawsuit to challenge executive actions expanding voter registration, arguing that such measures encroached upon the legislature’s constitutional authority regarding election procedures. This lawsuit signifies the start of what is anticipated to be a year marked by significant legal battles over various aspects of Pennsylvania’s electoral processes, particularly with the impending rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Potential litigation topics include the legality of drop boxes and the validity of mail ballots, with one case concerning undated or misdated mail ballots potentially reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. Read Article

Pennsylvania’s voting machines: Everything you need to know, how the state keeps them safe, and more | Carter Walker/Spotlight PA

In Pennsylvania, amidst an anticipated contentious presidential election, there’s been a history of politicians spreading false information regarding voting machines’ security and accuracy, despite stringent testing protocols in place. Despite these challenges, efforts to enhance transparency and reporting on machine issues aim to bolster public trust in the electoral process. Read Article

Pennsylvania governor unveils election security task force to mitigate threats to the 2024 vote | Adam Edelman/NBC

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro is set to establish an Election Threats Task Force, led by Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt, aimed at securing the 2024 vote from interference and misinformation. Comprising officials from multiple agencies, the task force’s primary goal is to coordinate plans and share intelligence to safeguard election integrity. This initiative follows previous challenges in Pennsylvania’s electoral process, including threats to election workers and the spread of misinformation during the 2020 race. Despite bipartisan efforts to enhance election security, legislative action to address issues like delayed ballot counting remains stalled in the divided Legislature. Read Article

Pennsylvania seeks legal costs from county that let outsiders access voting machines to help Trump | Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

In a protracted legal battle over voting machine examination in rural Pennsylvania, Secretary of State Al Schmidt is seeking reimbursement of $711,000 from Republican-controlled Fulton County officials, alleging obstruction and delays that incurred substantial legal fees. The state Supreme Court recently cautioned the officials against unilaterally providing voting equipment evidence to outside parties, prompting pushback from the county’s lawyer, who argued against court intervention in litigation involving Dominion Voting Systems Inc. Read Article

Pennsylvania election officials are bracing for another round of lawsuits, recount requests, and claims of fraud in 2024 | Gillian McGoldrick/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania is gearing up for the anticipated turbulence of the upcoming presidential election, poised to play a pivotal role as a battleground state. With heightened scrutiny and potential legal battles looming, Governor Josh Shapiro and Secretary of State Al Schmidt are leading efforts to ensure a smooth electoral process. A bipartisan election task force, spearheaded by Schmidt, aims to address any threats to voter access or election integrity. While certain legal issues surrounding mail voting laws remain unresolved, officials are striving to provide clear guidance to voters and counties to mitigate confusion. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Turnover among election officials has cost nearly 300 years of experience | Carter Walker/Votebeat

Pennsylvania is facing a significant shortage of experienced election directors ahead of the presidential election, with 58 officials who served during the November 2019 election having left their positions. This departure represents a loss of 293 years of combined experience among the state’s top county election officials. The turnover has prompted concerns about potential mistakes, disenfranchisement of voters, and disputes over election results. Read Article

This Paennsylvania activist is the source of false and flawed election claims gaining traction across the country | Carter Walker/Votebeat

Heather Honey, an “election integrity” investigator from Pennsylvania, gained national attention among the far-right for her research, despite its numerous errors. Her claim that Pennsylvania had 205,000 more votes than voters during the 2020 election has been widely debunked, but it continues to be cited as fact by many. Honey’s flawed analysis has contributed to misinformation campaigns, undermining trust in election practices. Her recent focus on the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) led to several states withdrawing from the program, influenced by her misleading conclusions. Read Article

Pennsylvania: How an ‘Ice Cream Truck’ for Voting Could Stop Mail Ballots from Being Tossed | Alex Burness/Bolts

Neil Makhija, a former advocate for South Asian voter turnout and now a county commissioner in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, has taken on the task of securing voting rights from within the system. He aims to revolutionize the ballot curing process, proposing a mobile unit that would reach voters directly to resolve mail ballot errors, inspired by an “ice cream truck for voting” concept. Pennsylvania’s lack of statewide guidelines on ballot curing leaves counties with disparate approaches, with some, like Montgomery, making efforts to inform voters but still seeing a significant number of rejected ballots. Makhija’s proposal, though ambitious, has garnered support from voting rights advocates, who see it as a game-changer, but its implementation faces challenges in resource allocation and logistics. Read Article

Pennsylvania automatic voter registration boosts sign-ups, but not a political party, data shows | Marc Levy/Associated Press

New data from Pennsylvania’s automatic voter registration at driver’s license centers reveals a 45% increase in sign-ups compared to a similar period two years ago. The partisan mix of registrations under the new system shows that 35% opted for Republican, 31% for Democratic, and 34% for independent or a third party. The data challenges accusations by Donald Trump that Democrats would exploit the system. Pennsylvania’s new automatic voter registration system is currently facing a lawsuit from Republican lawmakers. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Republican lawmakers challenge state, federal actions to boost voter registration | Marc Levy/Associated Press

A group of 24 conservative state lawmakers in Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit challenging three voting-related executive branch actions, including a 2021 executive order by President Joe Biden that aimed to boost voter registration. The lawsuit challenges the legality of Biden’s executive order, as well as two state-level actions – the introduction of automatic voter registration by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and a 2018 state directive under then-Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Read Article

Pennsylvania elections chief: Fixes coming to avoid errors that plagued Northampton County | Tom Shortell/Lehigh Valley News

Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt has expressed confidence that Northampton County is addressing the issues that led to problems in the 2023 general election. The issues, which involved voters casting emergency ballots due to problems with the ExpressVote XL voting machines, were attributed to human error rather than flaws in the voting system. Schmidt mentioned that the state is stepping up training and assistance for county election officials to prevent similar errors in future elections. The state is also revisiting guidance on logic and accuracy testing, considering the importance of manual testing, and establishing a training office for county election officials.Read Article