Days before the 2022 midterm elections, Pennsylvania Republican Senate leaders wrote to their commonwealth’s chief voting overseer, seeking assurance that laws governing undated absentee ballots will be followed.
The letter from Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Greensburg) and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) goes on to urge acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D) to follow official procedure on other electoral matters as well.
“In the interest of maintaining the integrity of the Commonwealth’s elections, we must ensure the law is followed and that counties and the electorate can count on clear and lawful guidance from the Department of State,” the senators wrote.
Ward and Corman first referenced the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision last week, invalidating any future mail-in or absentee ballots delivered in an envelope on which the voter clearly failed to write a correct date.
While Democrats argue that the ballot-date requirement serves no purpose in determining a voter’s eligibility to cast a vote, party organizations have followed up their criticisms of the court decision with exhortations to voters to date their ballots lest they go uncounted.
“Check your envelopes and make sure you date them!” The Centre County Democratic Party tweeted. “Make sure your vote counts!”
Republican legislators want Chapman to guarantee her agency will disapprove any county’s decision to count undated absentee ballots despite the Department of State’s recent instruction that election boards segregate those ballots and don’t include them in vote tallies. Ward and Corman voiced particular unhappiness with a response the state issued concerning the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of a lower federal court’s ruling in favor of counting such ballots. Chapman and Governor Tom Wolf (D) did not conclude that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision had binding authority regarding this matter and thence asserted that counties could count the improperly completed ballots.
“This type of confusion only adds to the public’s mistrust of our Commonwealth’s elections,” the senators complained.
Another section of the Senate letter asks Chapman to ensure that poll watchers authorized by candidates or party committees get “meaningful and reasonable access” to polling and canvassing locations to observe the electoral process so they can object to any perceived mischief or error. The Republicans lamented Wolf’s veto of legislation to allow a poll watcher from one county to be stationed at a polling place in another jurisdiction. Still, the senators urged the secretary to enforce the rights of in-county poll watchers.
Republicans have increasingly emphasized what they believe to be the crucial role poll watchers play after former President Donald Trump alleged GOP observers were obstructed from viewing the canvassing process in Philadelphia two years ago.
Ward and Corman furthermore insisted that counties receiving election funding through a state grant program established earlier this year announce their mail-in and absentee ballot totals by 12:01 a.m. the day after Election Day, as the new law requires.
The senators finally asked the secretary to explain reasons for recent allegations that counties have mailed over 240,000 ballots to recipients whose identities were not verified.
“Voting is the cornerstone of democracy and voters should have confidence in the administration of elections,” Ward and Corman wrote. “Too often election results are unclear for days or even weeks following an election. However, this is often due to avoidable circumstances. We implore you to take the appropriate steps to ensure a fair and accurate election next week.”
– – –
Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kim Ward” by Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus. CC BY 3.0. Photo “Leigh Chapman” by Pennsylvania Department of State. Photo “Jake Corman” by Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus. CC BY 3.0. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Dough4872. CC BY-SA 4.0.