After Pennsylvania Court Ruling on Absentee Voting, Republicans Renew Call for Reform

This week’s decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholding Act 77 which legalized no-excuse absentee voting in the Keystone State is spurring Republican lawmakers to renew their push for election reform. 

A Republican-led legislature passed and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 77 three years ago. Moderate Democratic Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Bethlehem) initially drafted the bill to get rid of straight-party voting, a policy on which Republican legislators largely agreed with her. More Democrats came around to support the measure once a section was added allowing voters to cast mail-in ballots without providing a reason they could not come to the polls (i.e., illness, injury or travel). 

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Pennsylvania Department of State Sues Counties to Count Undated Ballots

Pennsylvania’s Department of State this week filed a lawsuit against three counties, all controlled by Republicans, to count undated absentee ballots.

Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D) wants Berks, Fayette and Lancaster counties to follow the rest of the state in counting votes delivered in undated envelopes toward the official tallies for candidates nominated in May 17’s primaries. A Pennsylvania law requiring absentee and mail-in voters to date their ballot envelope has underwent significant court scrutiny over the last two years.

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Mastriano Bill to Allow Out-of-County Poll Watchers in Pennsylvania Passes Senate

Pennsylvania’s state Senate passed legislation this week that would permit a Pennsylvania voter to serve as a poll watcher in an election precinct outside of his or her county.

Current law lets candidates and parties appoint poll watchers — volunteers who are often party committee members — to election precincts only in those watchers’ respective counties. State guidance allows these appointees to “make good-faith challenges” to an elector’s residence, identity or voting eligibility.

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Oz’s Counsel to Commonwealth Court: ‘The Voters of Pennsylvania Have Spoken’

Attorneys for Senate candidate Dave McCormick on Monday found themselves in the atypical position of arguing in Commonwealth Court alongside Pennsylvania’s Democratic Secretary of State about which ballots to count.

The Republican and former hedge-fund executive is challenging the vote-counting standard that has determined the gap of 922 votes between him and his leading primary opponent, celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz.

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Pennsylvania GOP and National GOP Side with Oz on Undated Absentee Ballots

The Republican National Committee joined Pennsylvania’s Republican Party this week in a legal effort to effectively help Mehmet Oz sew up last Tuesday’s Senate primary election battle against rival Dave McCormick.

As of Tuesday afternoon, McCormick is 982 votes behind the celebrity surgeon, though vote counting hasn’t concluded. Tuesday marked the final day that absentee military ballots could arrive at their respective counties and still get counted. What impact those final military votes will have on the race remains to be seen, though it bears observing that McCormick himself served in the U.S. Army and noted that fact well throughout his campaign. 

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Pennsylvania Senate Nomination Could Hinge upon Mail-In Ballot Decision

The determination of Pennsylvania’s unsettled Republican Senate nomination battle between Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick could depend on a federal court decision regarding undated mail-in ballots.

As of Sunday afternoon, Oz held 418,535 votes to McCormick’s 417,465, putting the former ahead by far less than the 0.5 percent maximum gap that triggers an automatic recount. While over 99 percent of all ballots cast in the election have been counted, an ongoing dispute about whether undated absentee ballots should be deemed valid has the potential to erase Oz’s lead.

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Grove Proposes Bill to Address Future Pennsylvania Election Complaints

State Rep. Seth Grove (R-PA-York) told legislative colleagues on Monday that he will introduce a measure to ease the process by which Pennsylvanians can report voter fraud and other election-related problems. 

The bill would require the Pennsylvania secretary of state to establish a 1-800 hotline that voters could call to note any alleged misconduct they encounter in the course of an election. The secretary would also need to host annual training sessions for county-level prosecutors on the commonwealth’s election rules. 

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Pennsylvania Lawmaker Proposes ‘Office of Election Crimes and Security’

Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) announced on Thursday he intends to draft legislation creating an Office of Election Crimes and Security.

The new division within the Pennsylvania Department of State would be charged with probing all alleged violations of voting laws. The proposed bill also targets “ballot harvesting,” the illegal practice of hand-delivering absentee ballots — usually by depositing them in election drop boxes — on behalf of voters other than oneself. Currently, state law treats ballot harvesting as a misdemeanor; Mastriano’s measure would make it a third-degree felony.

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Corman to Bannon: Election Integrity Will Be Paramount in Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Administration

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore and gubernatorial candidate Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room Thursday to discuss his proposed reforms to make elections more secure in his state.

Corman promised to call for a special legislative session on election-related legislation the day he takes office. Items he said he intends to address foremost are requiring identification of all voters, rescinding a state policy allowing people to vote by mail without submitting an excuse, banning absentee-ballot drop boxes and banning the use of private grants for election administration.

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Pennsylvania Senate Passes Election Integrity Measures

Pennsylvania Republican Senators this week celebrated their chamber’s passage of two pieces of election-security legislation.

One bill, sponsored by state Sen. Cris Dush (R-Wellsboro), would prohibit the use of drop boxes to collect mail-in and absentee ballots. The other, sponsored by Sens. Lisa Baker (R-Dallas) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-Jacobus), would bar state or county employees from approving the use of private donations to fund election administration.

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Montgomery County, Pennsylvania GOP Says County Democratic Officials Ignoring Election Rules to Protect Their Own

Person putting mail-in ballot in ballot return box

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania’s Democrat-controlled administration has defended a woman who dropped off numerous voters’ absentee ballots last year—and Republicans are saying political favoritism is the reason.

As The Pennsylvania Daily Star reported last week, Montgomery County Chief Operating Officer   Lee Soltysiak wrote a letter to Montgomery County Republican Committee (MCRC) Chair Liz Preate Havey insisting that MCRC was “irresponsible” to allege the woman acted illegally. 

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Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Denies That Ballot Harvesting Occurred

A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania administrator this week responded to the local Republican Party’s allegations of “ballot harvesting,” insisting that video surveillance does not show that it occurred.

As The Pennsylvania Daily Star reported, Montgomery County Republican Committee (MCRC) Chair Liz Preate Havey addressed the county Board of Commissioners last Thursday regarding numerous election-integrity concerns. She mentioned video footage of a woman depositing handfuls of ballots into a drop box in Upper Dublin Township in the run-up to the 2021 general election. Such drop boxes have been in use in Pennsylvania for absentee-ballot delivery since 2020. 

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Federal Court Considers Whether to Count Undated Ballots in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Election

Pennsylvania Judicial Center

A federal appeals court this week blocked certification of the election results for the contest between Republican David Ritter and Democrat Zachary Cohen for Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge.

Currently, Ritter is 74 votes ahead of Cohen, but the win would flip to the Democrat should the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decide to count 257 absentee ballots that lack handwritten dates on their return envelopes. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania is litigating on behalf of five of the voters who cast those ballots.

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Montgomery County, Pennsylvania GOP Asks Commissioners to Consider Election Reforms

NORRISTOWN, PA—Montgomery County, Pennsylvania’s Republican Party yesterday asked the county’s Democrat-controlled Board of Elections to consider several election-security measures, mainly regarding absentee voting.

At a County Commissioners’ meeting, Montgomery County Republican Committee (MCRC) Chair Liz Preate Havey said the reforms her organization proposes will curb alleged breaches of law and foulups in administration that have already taken place in the county during recent elections.

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The Star News Network’s National Political Editor Neil McCabe Visits Georgia State Capitol to Question Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

The Star News Network National Political Editor, Neil W. McCabe visited the Georgia State Capitol Thursday to ask Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger specific questions about the documents underpinning the 2020 election results. 

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Senate Bill Would Reform Pennsylvania Mail-In Voting

A Pennsylvania Senate committee passed legislation Tuesday to make absentee-ballot canvassing more transparent, clarify ballot-submission deadlines and allow signature “curing” on mail-in-ballot envelopes.

Sen. Judy Ward (R-Hollidaysburg) said her reforms address concerns raised especially by the 2020 presidential election. The Senate State Government Committee advanced the bill in a party-line vote, with Republicans approving and Democrats opposed.

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Pennsylvania Decision Against Counting Undated Mail Ballots Prompts Supreme Court Appeal

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court this week ruled that 257 flawed ballots in a Lehigh County judgeship election cannot be counted, prompting Democratic candidate Zachary Cohen to announce a state Supreme-Court appeal. 

Excluding these mail-in ballots, which contain no date on their return envelopes, puts Republican David Ritter 74 votes ahead of Cohen in their contest for Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas judge, in which about 22,000 total votes were cast. Ritter initially sued in county court to exclude 261 ballots, four of which displayed a date, albeit not on the correct line. Trial Judge Edward D. Reibman (D) handed down a ruling favorable to Cohen, spurring Ritter to appeal to the Commonwealth Court which handles litigation between governing entities, public officials and candidates. 

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