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 GOP Sues Commonwealth over Mail-in Voting Law, Calling It Invalid

Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers are suing the commonwealth over its 2019 law expanding mail-in voting, arguing it’s invalid after a recent court ruling.

On Wednesday, 14 state Republicans filed a lawsuit against acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman, a Democrat, to throw out the mail-in law.

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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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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 Activists Prioritize End of No-Excuse Absentee Voting

A coalition of more than 70 grassroots organizations across Pennsylvania issued a declaration at the state’s Capitol Building in Harrisburg last week urging lawmakers to repeal no-excuse absentee voting. 

The activists would end a provision of Act 77 of 2019, a law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, which permits Keystone State residents to vote via absentee or mail-in ballot without stating an excuse. Formerly, valid reasons for voting away from the polls mainly included out-of-town travel and illness. 

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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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Commentary: Restrict Mail-In Voting to Restore Trust

The 2020 U.S. election was unique in many respects, but its chief distinguishing feature is that it occurred during a full-scale pandemic. One consequence was that the election operated under regulations that changed how Americans vote. Some states bent voting rules to expand access. Some resorted to mail-in voting to ensure that everyone who wanted to vote could do so. These actions were, to some extent, understandable, but the resulting conditions were extraordinary, and the dramatic increase in mail-in voting created a major political phenomenon: the blue shift, in which late-counted ballots turn voting outcomes toward the Democrats.

On election night, vote totals initially looked good for President Donald Trump. But as mail-in votes rolled in, central swing states moved into Joe Biden’s column, and Biden won the election. The phenomenon disrupted expectations – and sowed distrust. Many of my Republican family members said, “It didn’t seem right. I knew something was wrong.” Trump, attuned to the emotions of his base, made use of this sentiment. He stoked suspicion that Democrats stole the election. The nightmarish result was the Jan. 6 insurrection.

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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 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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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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Tea Party Patriots Action Tours Pennsylvania to Champion Election Integrity

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.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Keeps Mail-In Voting in Place

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that controversial mail-in voting laws will remain in place for now.

Republicans argue that those laws, which have been in place for two years and were struck down by Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt on February 16, violate the Pennsylvania Constitution. 

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Pennsylvania State Rep. Diamond Working on Ending No-Excuse Mail-In Voting Whether or Not It Survives the Courts

As Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) appeals a court ruling against no-excuse absentee voting, a state representative hopes to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to decisively end the practice.

A bill authored by Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon), who is also running for lieutenant governor, would explicitly limit mail-in voting to those who are sick, injured or traveling. This status quo existed before Wolf signed Act 77 in October 2019. 

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Ruling Against No-Excuse Mail-In Voting in Pennsylvania Appealed

Although Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on Friday invalidated the law that has allowed no-excuse mail-in voting since 2020, the state’s appeal of the ruling means the decision is not yet in effect.

State officials, represented by Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, will likely face a much friendlier forum in the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by Democrats in contrast to the Republican-majority Commonwealth Court. Democrats denounced the latter court’s ruling and pointed out that Republican legislators overwhelmingly voted for Act 77, which allowed Pennsylvanian’s who were not sick, injured or out of town to vote via absentee ballot.

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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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Amidst Concerns of Election Irregularities, Commonwealth Court Recount Begins in Pennsylvania

Amidst public concerns of electoral irregularities in Pennsylvania, a recount will decide the outcome of the Commonwealth Court contest between Republican Drew Crompton and Democrat Lori A. Dumas.

Based on unofficial returns published by the Pennsylvania Department of State, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Dumas now leads Superior Court Judge Crompton by 16,804 votes out of more than 2.5 million votes cast for either of the two. That’s a margin of about a third of one percent, within the 0.5 percent difference that prompts a recount under Pennsylvania’s Act 97 of 2004. 

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