Commentary: America’s Electoral System Is Suffering from a Credibility Crisis

Defying all predictions of a photo finish senate race, Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman won 50.3% of the vote to Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz’s 47.3%. The unexpectedly large margin helped avoid a midterm meltdown. But don’t be deceived; that margin masks major electoral system dysfunction that remains unaddressed.

If the margins had been narrower, things might have looked very different. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf last year vetoed a commonsense measure that would have modernized Pennsylvania’s Depression-era voting laws. As a result, the Commonwealth is saddled with a ponderous mail voting system bolted onto a rickety election code that forbids routine practices like voter ID and pre-processing mail ballots. Those policies secure elections and speed tabulations, but were vetoed by Wolf last year.

Read More

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decides Against Counting Undated Ballots

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court this week ordered counties to decline to count any absentee or mail-in ballot delivered in an undated envelope.

State law, which has permitted no-excuse absentee voting since 2020, requires those not voting in person to place their ballot into a secrecy envelope before placing it into a return envelope. Voter must sign and date that outer envelope for their ballot to be valid under state statute. 

Read More

Democratic Judge Questions Differing Ballot-Curing Rules Across Pennsylvania

As political-party attorneys and the state of Pennsylvania argued over “curing” election ballots on Thursday, the Democratic judge hearing the case suggested that differing county rules could undermine confidence in election integrity.

Judge Ellen Ceisler, one of two Democrats on the seven-member Commonwealth Court, conducted the hearing in which Republican Party lawyers pressed their case against Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D). Per litigation filed three weeks ago, the plaintiffs contended that the court should not permit the secretary to let counties notify absentee or mail-in voters that their ballots contain mistakes that can supposedly be corrected or “cured.” 

Read More

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Won’t Fast-Track Hearing for Proposed Abortion Amendment

Pro-lifers and scored a momentary win this week as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided against bypassing the Commonwealth Court and hearing a case against a proposed constitutional amendment. 

The Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia were among organizations that filed amicus briefs with the majority-Democrat Supreme Court urging it to make Governor Tom Wolf (D) first take his case to the Republican-controlled lower court. In that forum, judges will rule on the validity of a proposed amendment stating that the commonwealth does not confer a constitutional right to abortion.

Read More

Court Orders Three Pennsylvania Counties to Count Undated Ballots

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on Friday ordered three counties that declined to count undated absentee ballots to count them.

Republican Commonwealth Court President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer issued the ruling affecting Berks, Fayette and Lancaster counties. Last month, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D) sued the three jurisdictions to compel them to include votes delivered in undated envelopes in their May 17 primary results. 

Read More

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). 

Read More

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.

Read More

Pennsylvania Senate Panel Votes to Implement Changes to Improve Voter Records

Ryan Aument

A committee of the GOP-run Pennsylvania Senate voted Wednesday to change the state’s voter-records system as recommended by a Democratic former state auditor general.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lititz), passed the State Government Committee seven to four, with all Republicans and no Democrats backing the measure.

Read More

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Leaves New Democrat-Favored State House Map in Place

Kerry Benninghoff

Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives were dealt an expected blow this week as the state Supreme Court unanimously declined to overturn a new state-House-district map.

Every ten years, Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) must redraw the state’s 203 state legislative districts and 50 state senatorial districts to cohere with new population data reported by the U.S. Census. The five-member LRC is composed of the respective Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate as well as a chair appointment by the state Supreme Court. In the latest round of redistricting, Democrats effectively controlled the LRC, as the majority of justices on the court selected fellow Democrat Mark A. Nordenberg. 

Read More

Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane Arrested for DUI

Kathleen Kane

Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) after crashing her car in Scranton around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday evening.

City police reported Monday that no injuries resulted from the two-car collision at the intersection of Moosic Street and Meadow Avenue and that Kane will incur official charges this week. 

Read More

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. 

Read More

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Picks Democrat-Favored Congressional Map

Democrats celebrated and Republicans demurred Wednesday after the Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected the state’s new congressional map.

In so doing, the court overturned a decision earlier this month by Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia A. McCullough (R) to allow implementation of a redistricting plan passed by the GOP-led General Assembly but vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf (D). The initial version of the legislature-approved map was drawn by a private citizen, Amanda Holt of Lehigh County, though legislators modified her plan somewhat.

Read More

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Suspends Primary Election Calendar

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily has suspended the primary election calendar while it reviews a lawsuit over congressional redistricting.

Candidates for the May 17 primary were to start gathering signatures for petitions on Feb. 15 to get on the primary ballot, but the high court suspended the process “pending further order” as justices prepare for a Feb. 18 hearing on a new congressional district map.

Read More

Commonwealth Court Judge Chooses Citizen-Drawn Congressional Map Favored by GOP Legislature

Pennsylvania Capitol Building

Because Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor and GOP-controlled legislature couldn’t agree on a congressional redistricting plan, a Commonwealth Court judge has stepped in and chosen one favored by the latter.

Judge Patricia A. McCullough (R), who was charged individually with selecting a new congressional map from among several proposed by state officials and nongovernmental actors, issued a 228-page report explaining her decision.

Read More

Opposition to Pennsylvania State House Map Getting Voluble, and Not Just Among Republicans

Pennsylvania Capitol Building

Across the Keystone State, more and more observers are raising concerns about the proposed district map for state representatives.

The redistricting plan, crafted by a majority-Democrat Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC), has received reproach for unduly advantaging Democratic candidates, lacking competitiveness and diluting minority-voter strength. The period during which the LRC is hearing public comments on the map continues until next Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Read More

Pennsylvania Courts Deal Blows to Progressives on Election Review and Redistricting

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court green-lighted the state Senate Republicans’ election probe this week; the state Supreme Court has meanwhile declined to take up the remapping of congressional districts. 

As a result of the Commonwealth Court’s ruling, the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee may proceed with its subpoenas of voter records. The Supreme Court’s decision means Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will likely have to work out a compromise with the Republican state legislature on congressional reapportionment.

Read More

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. 

Read More

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Suggests in Lawsuit Response That Court Should Draw Congressional Districts

Veronica Degraffenreid

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid (D), in answering a lawsuit concerning congressional redistricting Monday, indicated interest in having the state Supreme Court once again redraw district lines.

Petitioners have complained of an impasse between the Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and the GOP-led General Assembly on creating new districts and Degraffenreid’s attorneys have suggested agreement on the plaintiffs’ suggestion that Pennsylvania’s high court must finally decide.

Read More

Pennsylvania Commission’s Redistricting Proposals Draw Ire for Gerrymandering

PA State Rep. Bryan Cutler

After years of Pennsylvania Democrats excoriating Republicans for gerrymandering, the 2021 Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s state-level redistricting proposals are drawing ire from members of both parties.

Republicans have broadly opposed the preliminary redistricting plan for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and at least one Senate Democrat, Lisa Boscola (Bethlehem), is incensed about changes to her chamber’s map.

Read More

While Pennsylvania Strikes Down School Mask Mandate, Federal Judge Says Opposite in Tennessee

While children in Pennsylvania will soon be allowed to return to school without masks, children in Tennessee will not. 

Over a 24-hour period, Pennsylvania’s highest court and a federal judge in Tennessee came to opposite conclusions about whether mask mandates should be legal. 

Read More

Pennsylvania Bill Would Clarify That Courts Can’t Redraw Electoral Maps, as State Supreme Court Did in 2018

Legislation currently in the works in the Pennsylvania General Assembly would spell out two rules for redistricting in the Keystone State: Elections cannot legally take place in outdated districts and courts can’t create new districts themselves.

In Feb. 2018, the Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court not only struck down Pennsylvania’s congressional maps as unconstitutionally gerrymandered, it reimposed new maps created with no input from the legislature, something state law does not grant the court the right to do. The new maps strongly favored the Democrats’ electoral prospects.

Read More

Pennsylvania Poll Volunteer: Election Totally Chaotic and Suspicious

A poll worker who checked in voters at the Radnor Municipal Building located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania’s Sixth Ward – about 13 miles outside of Philadelphia – said Tuesday was “total chaos.”

The worker, who we will call Sue (to protect her identity and safety), said that she worked the greater Philly area polling precinct in 2016 and never saw what she witnessed in droves on election day 2020.

People were angry, according to the election volunteer.

Read More