Tea Party Patriots Action (TPPA), a national conservative nonprofit, began a tour of Pennsylvania Monday to emphasize the importance of election integrity.
TPPA kicked off the trek in Grove City and has since visited Du Bois, State College and Altoona. The organization plans to push eastward, penultimately visiting Philadelphia on March 29 and finally the state capital of Harrisburg on March 30. At each stop, organizers will impress upon audiences the need for both legislative reforms and for citizen involvement to improve voting and vote-count processes. Toward that end, TPPA is recruiting citizens for local election integrity task forces to aid area elections.
The group has already promoted this effort throughout Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. Its leaders decided to undertake statewide election integrity tours in late 2021 after observing the success of the Virginia Fair Elections Coalition, a movement of about 80 largely grassroots organizations. The coalition managed to engage citizens to fill over 90 percent of their shifts for local officials and poll watchers for Election Day that year as well as fill 75 percent of shifts for the state’s 45-day early-voting period.
This inspired TPPA organizers to replicate such endeavors in other states to ensure that problems associated with the administration of the 2020 presidential election don’t get repeated, especially regarding alleged violations of state laws and poorly maintained voter rolls.
“We wanted to take the model that they were using in Virginia and use that as a template to train other states that had so many problems in 2020 to prevent those from happening again,” TPPA Honorary Chair Jenny Beth Martin told The Pennsylvania Daily Star.
In Pennsylvania, many have raised particular concern about the failure to enforce statutes pertaining to absentee-ballot signature-verification requirements, rules for filling out those ballots and the right of campaigns to challenge mail-in ballots or to observe ballot canvassing. Erroneous voter rolls have also been a problem in the commonwealth, as underscored by a 2019 report by Democratic former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
The grassroots election task forces that Martin and her colleagues envision would be countywide organizations whose members would establish direct relationships with their local election directors, develop an understanding of election-agency business practices and learn about mail-in voting procedures.
Priority actions for the task-force members will include joining their municipal election board as a judge or inspector and advocating for cleaner voter rolls and proper list maintenance as well as legislative reforms at the state level. One change Martin mentioned that many hope to see in the Keystone State is the repeal of Act 77, which legalized no-excuse absentee voting. State Representative Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) has recently introduced a measure to end that policy, though Governor Tom Wolf (D) is not expected to consider signing it if it passes the Republican-controlled legislature.
Martin also said task forces will work to protect vulnerable voters, for instance, those in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. That issue has gotten increased attention after Racine County, Wisconsin Sheriff Christopher Schmaling took his state’s Election Commission to task for instructing local election boards not to send poll workers into such facilities to assist those residents.
“You have people who are designated to help and assist people who are unable to fill out the ballots,” Martin said. “It’s very important that those ballots are filled out according to the voter’s will and not according to the will of the person filling out the ballot.”
TPPA anticipates that between 300 and 400 individuals will attend one of their Pennsylvania meetings by the end of the month. Voters who are interested in the project can find times and locations and RSVP for the events at http://tpp.me/paeitour.
“We need to be making sure that we are doing all that we can as individual citizens to ensure the integrity of our elections,” Martin said. “So I urge people to come and attend and learn how they can exercise those rights.”
The Republican Party in Pennsylvania, with whom TPPA is not affiliated but sometimes aligned, has itself focused increasingly on election security and voting reforms. The national GOP has hired Andrea Raffle to oversee election-integrity efforts in 2022.
“The [Republican National Committee’s] election integrity operation is helping to ensure secure, fair and transparent elections in 2022 across the Keystone State and the country,” RNC Spokesperson Rachel Lee told The Daily Star via email. “In Pennsylvania, the RNC has already hosted in-person and virtual election integrity trainings in every region of the state this year, and we are relentlessly working to recruit, train and mobilize poll watchers and workers for this election cycle.”
– – –
Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Jenny Beth Martin” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0. Background Photo “Tea Party Patriots” by Tea Party Patriots.