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Judge Dismisses PA Automatic Voter Registration Lawsuit

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s executive action turning Pennsylvania’s “motor voter” system from “opt in” to “opt out” will stand, thanks to the plaintiffs’ lack of standing.

That was the finding of U.S. District Judge Jennifer P. Wilson on Tuesday when she rejected a lawsuit by 25 state legislators claiming Shapiro’s changes to the state’s voter registration process are unconstitutional.

Wilson ruled the plaintiffs had not “alleged any individualized and particularized harm.” Therefore, she ruled they “do not have standing” to pursue the lawsuit.

Last fall, Shapiro ordered PennDOT to automatically register people when they received their driver’s licenses or state identification cards unless they opt out of the process. The lawsuit, led by Rep.  Dawn Keefer (R-York) claimed that was unconstitutional because it usurped the authority of the state legislature.

The suit also claimed that when President Joe Biden signed an executive order in March 2021 requiring all federal agencies to develop plans to increase voter registration, his action was also unconstitutional.

Keefer, who is running for the state Senate, did not have an immediate comment on the ruling. The plaintiffs were members of the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus and other conservative lawmakers.

Under Shapiro’s new system, people can opt out of getting their voter registration. Under the previous system, they had to opt in to register at Department of Motor Vehicle centers.

Previously, House Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said a new voting registration system should be created by legislation rather than by an executive order from the governor.

And others have also expressed concern with the change.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has admitted to registering foreign nationals to vote for nearly two decades,” J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, previously told DVJournal. “They continue to fight to conceal the full extent of how many foreigners registered to vote through the DMV process. This new automatic voter registration program will crank in more errors to the voter rolls.”

Shapiro took a victory lap Tuesday.

“In 2020, I defeated Donald Trump and his conspiracy theorist allies in court more than 40 times to defend Pennsylvanians’ votes and protect access to the ballot box,” Shapiro said. “Today, we’ve done it again by getting their frivolous effort to stop automatic voter registration in our commonwealth dismissed. Automatic voter registration is safe, secure, efficient, and entirely within my administration’s authority.”

“As governor, I will always remain focused on protecting our democracy and ensuring our elections are free, fair, safe, and secure. Let today’s ruling be another reminder that taking legal advice from Donald Trump is never a winning strategy,” Shapiro said.

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PA Dems Demanded Automatic Voter Registration, But the GOP Reaps the Rewards

Two weeks into Pennsylvania’s new automatic voter registration demanded by Democrats, the winner is the state’s GOP.

Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) announced the change in state law, which moves from an “opt-in” system, meaning people getting driver’s licenses or photo identification will be automatically registered to vote (AVR) unless they opt-out. The new system began on Sept. 26. Critics said the governor could not make that change himself; rather, it should go through the state legislature. Lawsuits have been threatened, but so far not filed.

According to state records, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10, Republicans added 4,730 registered voters; Democrats gained 1,774; and 3,681 registered as independents unaffiliated with any party or a third party. The state is still 45 percent Democrat and 39.9 percent Republican, with 14.9 percent of voters registered with other parties and independents.

The news for Democrats was better in the Delaware Valley, perhaps not surprising in the state’s blue corner.

In Bucks County, Republicans gained 284 new voters, while Democrats garnered only six, and other parties gained 141 voters. In Bucks County, Republicans comprise 41 percent of voters, Democrats are 42 percent, and others are 16.7 percent.

In Chester County, Republicans picked up 104 new voters, Democrats added 115, and others added 72 voters. In Chester County, Republicans make up 39.87 percent of voters; Democrats are 41.94 percent; and others are 18.9 percent.

In Delaware County, Republican voters increased by 93; Democrats increased by 207; and others by 148. There, Democrats comprise 50 percent of the voters, Republicans comprise 35.9 percent, and others are 14 percent.

In Montgomery County, Republicans gained 269 new voters, Democrats gained 189 voters, and 221 registered for other parties. Other parties are 16 percent of the electorate in Montgomery County, while Republicans are 33.7 percent and Democrats are 50 percent.

Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County GOP, said she was not surprised that her county is trending Republican and that Republicans are gaining voters statewide.

“People are so upset with the cost of everything,” said Poprik. “Everything is through the roof when I go to the grocery store, the gas station. People are smart.

“And the border, the fentanyl coming in. This (country) is a ship heading in the wrong direction. Democrats are not standing up to their president,” she said.

Locally, people are concerned about crime increasing coming into Bucks County from Philadelphia. The two Republicans running for commissioner, Gene DiGirolamo and Pamela Van Blunk, were endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and are running on a crime-fighting platform, she said.

People “want our county to be safe,” she said. “People are not happy with what they’re seeing.”

Activist Scott Presler has been staging voter registration drives in Pennsylvania. He defended the AVR policy last month on social media despite fears from others that the GOP would lose voters. Presler suggestedDemocrats “are becoming desperate” and that registered independents might switch to Republican for party primaries.

“I was the first to acknowledge this may backfire (on Democrats),” Presler told DVJournal. “So far, the first two full weeks of AVR have shown that most voters are registering Republican.”

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