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Court Ruling on Undated Ballots Could Overturn Towamencin Township Election

In what’s being called a landmark case for election integrity, the federal Third Circuit Court on Wednesday upheld a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court requiring people using mail-in ballots must put a correct date along with their signatures on the outer envelope.

It could also be a landmark for Richard Marino III of Towamencin Township. He lost the supervisor’s election to Kofi Osei when those ballots, now declared ineligible, were used in the final vote count.

The ruling overturned a previous ruling by a district court judge who found  ballots from eligible voters received on time did not need to have a handwritten date or a correct date.

“The Pennsylvania General Assembly has decided that mail-in voters must date the declaration on the return envelope of their ballot to make their vote effective. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania unanimously held this ballot-casting rule is mandatory; thus, failure to comply renders a ballot invalid under Pennsylvania law,” the Third Circuit panel said in its 2-1 majority ruling.

In the 2023 Towamencin Township supervisor’s election, Marino received the most ballots. But when the undated ballots were added, the race turned into a tie with Osei. As a result, the election was decided by a drawing to pick the winner.

Marino’s appeal is scheduled to be heard in the Commonwealth Court on April 3.

“I am happy the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found in our favor and rejected the idea that procedures put into place to secure election integrity somehow disenfranchises voters who ignore those procedures. I look forward to continuing this fight,” Marino said.

Christian Nascimento, chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, said Marino “absolutely should (return to the board). The Montco Board of Elections followed a process that has been deemed to be illegal.”

Republicans in the Keystone State and across the nation have made election integrity and the rule of law top priorities. The circuit court’s decision was praised by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley.

“This is a crucial victory for election integrity and voter confidence in the Keystone State and nationwide. Pennsylvanians deserve to feel confident in the security of their mail ballots, and this Third Circuit ruling roundly rejects unlawful left-wing attempts to count undated or incorrectly dated mail ballots. Republicans will continue to fight and win for election integrity in courts across the country ahead of the 2024 election,” Whatley said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), however, opposed the decision, arguing the civil right to have a ballot counted overrides the civil right of citizens to pass and enforce election laws to prevent fraud.

“If this ruling stands, thousands of Pennsylvania voters could lose their vote over a meaningless paperwork error. The ballots in question, in this case, come from voters who are eligible and who met the submission deadline. In passing the Civil Rights Act, Congress put a guardrail in place to be sure that states don’t erect unnecessary barriers that disenfranchise voters. It’s unfortunate that the court failed to recognize that principle. Voters lose as a result of this ruling,” said Mike Lee, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

“The court ruling is a gigantic win for Pennsylvania, the nation, and election integrity,” countered Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas. “The Pennsylvania GOP will continue to do everything we can to keep our elections safe and secure because, above all, Pennsylvanians deserve to have confidence in our elections.”

The Pennsylvania Department of State offered a measured response.

“The Department of State believes every vote by a qualified voter should be counted, and we are continuing to work to ensure that is the case in Pennsylvania,” said press officer Matt Heckel. “To that end, the department has made significant proactive improvements to mail ballot materials designed to cut down on undated or misdated mail ballot envelopes.”

The new ballots will be rolled out for the 2024 primary on April 23.

“Additionally, the department is encouraging counties to employ processes to provide notice to voters of these errors so that voters have a chance to correct them and ensure their votes are counted. The department is reviewing potential next steps as we analyze yesterday’s court decision,” Heckel added.

“The real winners in the Pennsylvania mail ballot case are the voters,” said Philadelphia election lawyer Linda A. Kerns. “In a well-reasoned opinion, the Third Circuit held that Pennsylvania law must be followed so voters can be assured, at least when it comes to dating, ballots across the commonwealth will be treated equally by election officials. I have no doubt the left will continue to attack the rule of law – but voters should feel confident with this victory.”

State Sen. Gene Yaw (R- Bradford) said, “The argument has always been about voter ID and all these other things out there, that it somehow restricts the number of people that can vote. And what the Third Circuit said in this particular case is that the signature requirement did not violate anything because it did not restrict the number of people that can vote. It only addressed how they can vote.

“Our Pennsylvania law did not run afoul of any federal requirement because we weren’t restricting the number of people.”


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McClinton Proposes Election Day Voter Registration, Two Weeks of Voting

State House Speaker Joanna McClinton unveiled legislation at a Capitol news conference Tuesday to make it easier for Pennsylvanians to vote.

McClinton’s bill would allow registered Pennsylvania voters to vote early, in person, during the two weeks before Election Day. It would also allow same-day voter registration at polling locations the day of the election.

“Voting is at the core of our national identity and among our most valued rights as Americans,” said McClinton (D-Philadelphia). “Rather than spur distrust in our system and attack our dedicated election workers, we should look for ways to make the system accessible to more Pennsylvanians so their voices can be heard.

“Measures like these add convenience and security and have already been adopted in dozens of other states, including states with historic records of voter suppression like Florida and Georgia.”

However, her bill is likely to meet opposition from Republican lawmakers.

“We cannot properly register people to vote and administer elections on the current timelines in the law,” said House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster). “This proposal does nothing to increase Pennsylvania’s election integrity and once again injects more partisanship and mixed messaging during a presidential election year.”

But Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) suggested a compromise could be on the horizon. “A lot can happen if we get Voter ID as a constitutional amendment.”

J. Christian Adams, founder of the Election Law Center and general counsel for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, is skeptical.

“Same day registration doesn’t provide enough time to validate eligibility,” said Adams. His organization promotes ballot security and is currently suing Pennsylvania to obtain information regarding the registration of foreign nationals at PennDOT offices for more than two decades.

McClinton said same-day voter registration would allow eligible Pennsylvanians to register when it’s most relevant and convenient—on Election Day. It would also enable real-time corrections to inaccurate voter rolls, strengthening the safety and security of the election system.

It seems to be working in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary in the nation every four years.

“New Hampshire has had election day registration since 1993. It has worked well in our state, and has resulted in consistently high voter participation rates,” New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan told DVJournal.

McClinton says allowing two weeks of early in-person voting on machines would give Pennsylvanians with demanding work schedules or family responsibilities an opportunity to cast their vote at a time that works best for them. It would also decrease congestion at the busiest polling locations. Also, it would help seniors, especially those who use wheelchairs or walkers, allowing more time to accommodate their needs.

Pennsylvania Voice Executive Director Salewa Ogunmefun support these new voting rules.

“These commonsense reforms will not only make it more convenient for all Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard at the ballot box, they will also help make our elections more secure,” said Ogunmefun. “We couldn’t be happier that Speaker McClinton has decided to make this a priority and look forward to working with her to get them passed into law.”

“I vote. I want to vote. I believe it’s my civic duty to vote. But when life becomes challenging, so can voting,” said Angela Madera, a voter from Allentown. “There are so many people like me who have to overcome barriers simply to cast our ballot. It shouldn’t be that way. Voting is our right. Pennsylvanians are busier than ever. Work schedules and family commitments vary. Our voting system needs to accommodate these new realities and reflect the needs of today’s citizens. I’m so grateful to the speaker for standing up for voters like me.”

“In order to have elections that are fully accessible to all, the Commonwealth must implement policies that are mindful of the challenges people with disabilities encounter when trying to vote. The changes proposed are welcome expansions to voting access in Pennsylvania and individuals with disabilities will especially benefit from more flexible opportunities to vote,” said Jennifer Garman, director of government affairs for Disability Rights Pennsylvania.

McClinton’s legislation compliments voting changes implemented by the Shapiro administration in 2023, including automatic voter registration when people get their driver’s licenses or state identification cards and redesigning mail-in ballots.

Spokesperson Manuel Bonder said, “Gov. Josh Shapiro is supportive of these priorities and expanding voting opportunities for eligible Pennsylvanians as we continue working to ensure our elections are free, fair, safe, and secure. The Shapiro administration looks forward to continuing to work alongside Speaker McClinton on these priorities.”

“As the birthplace of American democracy, it’s time we offered Pennsylvanians more options to vote safely and conveniently, reduce the time people wait in line to cast a ballot and guarantee that every voter has enough time to exercise their right to participate in our elections. Every voice matters.” McClinton said.

The primary is on April 23. The last day to request a mail-in or absentee ballot is April 16.

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In Open Records Lawsuit, Department of State Frets About ‘Misinformation’ if Data is Released

(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty)

In the uproar over election integrity in the wake of the 2020 election, governments across the country and the commonwealth have been put to the test, not simply in terms of basic election security, but with regard to transparency as citizen activists have leveraged open-records laws to dig far beneath the surface into how elections are conducted and votes counted.

One such case is before Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, with a decision that could arrive any day.

Heather Honey, an elections researcher, filed a Right to Know request in Lycoming County seeking a copy of the “cast vote record,” from the electronic voting systems in that county for the 2020 election.

A U.S. Department of Commerce document says, “Simply put, a cast vote record (CVR) is an electronic record of a voter’s ballot selections, and its primary purpose is to provide a record of voter selections that can be counted in an efficient manner to produce election results.”

What’s critical to understand, however, is although the CVR “is an electronic record of a voter’s ballot selections,” it does not abrogate a voter’s right to a secret ballot. If the CVR could link a ballot to a voter, it would never have been approved for use in the first place, Honey says.

“The Department of State cannot claim that the voting system complies with the requirement for ballot secrecy but then claim that a report from that system would reveal the identity of the voter.”

“Once cast, a ballot cannot be linked back to a voter. So, a report showing the votes cast on a ballot certainly cannot be linked back to a voter. The county confirmed that the voting system manufacturers randomize the order of the records in the CVR report.”

In other words, even if you knew the order of each voter, the CVR maintains secrecy by scrambling the order of the ballots.

While the case contains a wealth of interesting nuggets for those fascinated by the granular details of election administration and computerized voting, the oral arguments also presented a more general issue of transparency, which began with a question from Judge Ellen Ceisler.

“Counsel, if these reports don’t have any identifying information, and they’re produced naturally, and there’s a goal to keep the election process as open and fair and transparent as possible, what is the harm, and what is the concern of releasing these reports?” she asked the Department of State’s lawyer, Jason McMurray.

“One, we don’t believe they’re entitled to them based on the reading of the sections…” Murray began before he was cut off.

“We understand that, but just get right to what her question is,” Judge Stacy Wallace interjected.

“In the climate that we’re in currently, and in other matters, there’s always the possibility of the threat of manipulation of information,” McMurray began. “And so, when you get information such as this — raw data — from the machines, and subject to random interpretations, or people that don’t have all the facts of being able to adjudicate the information that’s in the data set, I think it could lead to a lot of misinformation. And that’s the harm here, we’re trying to prevent that. We’re trying to make sure that when you vote, your vote is counted properly and that the report of that vote is reported properly — that everyone is on the same page at the same time.

“And then by allowing requests for information such as this to get out, I believe that it could be a manipulation of that type of information in the public’s eye and could lead to, you know, a lot of challenges to results that are not necessarily warranted if there’s no fraud or errors presented.”

(PCN-TV video of the arguments is found here, choose 12-23-06. Arguments begin at -1:58:56. The specific comments mentioned in this article are at -1:16:11.)

When Broad + Liberty asked the Department of State if McMurray’s response revealed some kind of deeper ethos, the department objected.

“As Deputy Secretary Jonathan Marks said multiple times during his testimony in this case, transparency about the election process in Pennsylvania is extremely important to the Department of State. To that end, the Department’s approach to providing documents or data requested through the Right to Know Law is to provide all the information it is permitted to share within the confines of the law. The Department also takes seriously its duty to protect Pennsylvania voters’ confidential personal information,” a department spokeswoman said.

“In a general sense, providing information publicly often promotes transparency. However, one of the potential caveats of providing raw data or information is that it could be easily misunderstood without appropriate context, so the Department strives to provide necessary applicable context in its responses to RTKL requests.

“Again, in attempting to take this isolated statement in response to a specific question from the Court out of context, you are mischaracterizing the Department’s position on transparency as a whole and on this particular case.”

Honey was recently the subject of a massive, 4,600-word publication alleging she is one of the most disruptive purveyors of information when it comes to election integrity.

Because she was involved in audits in other states, Honey says she knows exactly what she’s looking for by requesting CVRs.

“The Cast Vote Record report contains information that is useful for many types of analysis. One example, as we found in Arizona, Georgia and in PA, when counties are tabulating hundreds of thousands of mail ballots on central tabulators, sometimes they send batches through more than once and ballots are double counted. In Georgia, that happened with many batches and thousands of ballots,” she said.

“Transparency and trust are fundamentally linked when it comes to the government. Public confidence in elections is at an all-time low and the Department’s efforts to withhold records that are presumed to be public are further eroding that trust,” Honey concluded.

State Sen. Jarett Coleman, a Republican whose district covers parts of Bucks and Lehigh counties, said the arguments in court from the Department of State are concerning, but largely because they don’t comport with his experience working with the department and its new secretary, Al Schmidt.

“This statement that the Department of State made in the courtroom is a severe departure from the openness that the secretary of state has provided me and my office as we work on election issues,” Coleman said. “So this is a huge departure and that’s very concerning for me. Secretary Schmidt has been nothing but helpful and open and transparent as we work to amend and craft election code bills that aim to increase transparency and faith in our elections. So this is a huge shift and that’s the part that’s hard for me to understand.”

Coleman said he felt certain that the department’s “misinformation” argument lacked any legal merit, and so that specific part would fail, even though other arguments the department made might yet succeed.

Coleman says he’s been working with Secretary Schmidt and other team members at the Department of State on testing issues for voting machines.

Honey’s case was argued before the Commonwealth Court in December. A ruling could come any day.

Philly GOP’s ‘Rock Bottom’ 2023 Election Isn’t Party’s End, Supporters Say

Republican “vote whisperer” Scott Presler came to Philadelphia on Saturday to do training for Republicans and bring hope to a demoralized city party.

Philly Republicans are frustrated, and with good reason. The party was humiliated in last month’s municipal elections when it lost the two city council seats reserved for the minority party to the far-left Working Families Party. There are now just two Republicans left in the entire elected city government.

“I think it’s a broader trend that really needs to be addressed about how competitive the Republican Party can be in a city that is diverse and in urban environments,” Republican City Commissioner Seth Bluestein told NBC 10. Bluestein also noted GOP mayoral candidate David Oh outperformed every Republican since Sam Katz in 2003.

Oh got 24 percent of the vote in his loss to Democrat Cherelle Parker.

“We need to engage the grassroots,” Philadelphia 5th Ward (Center City) GOP Chairman Michael McLaughlin told DVJournal. “And the Republican Party needs to have better outreach given that 2024 is upon us.”

“We had a nuclear meltdown,” McLaughlin added. “When you’re at rock bottom, there is only one place to go: up.”

Sam Oropeza, who ran for city council and state Senate, hosted Saturday’s event at a new apartment building in Kensington.

“What really bothers me, being a Republican here in Philadelphia is we stopped conservatives from throughout the whole state of Pennsylvania from getting into Harrisburg, where they belong. We need your help, and we need to take action.”

“I’m proud to be a Republican,” Oropeza continued. “I’m proud of our values…And we are a wide, diverse group of people.”

Oropeza said one reason for the GOP’s collapse was the unwillingness to use mail-in ballots.

“We’re not going to change the laws before 2024, so early voting, we must build a presence here,” said Oropeza. “Get out. Share voter applications. Share vote-by-mail applications. Show people how to do this.”

Presler echoed that view, saying embracing mail-in ballots is critical for the GOP to win in 2024. For the Supreme Court race in November, Democrats had 450,000 mail-in ballots already locked in. The Republican judge, Carolyn Carluccio, lost by 200,000 votes.

“So, in part, the mail-in ballots secured the victory for the Dems,” said Presler. “Based on voter registration data that, the mail-in voter is 87 percent more likely to vote. An in-person voter is 53 percent likely to vote,” said Presler. “Every mail-in ballot that the Democrats get locked in, they’re likely to get their voters to the polls than we are.” Two people had told Presler they could not go to Saturday’s event. One because their child had an earache, and the other because they had an unexpected issue. The same thing happens on Election Day, he noted.

“To beat Joe Biden, we have to have a diverse approach to voting,” said Presler.

He showed the group of about 45 people how to use his app, Early Vote Action. It shows Republicans living nearby and offers scripts for knocking on doors, phone calls, scripts for texts, and thank you letters.

“I hear complaints from voters: ‘Scott, I’ve lived here in Philly for 60 years. No one’s ever knocked on my door.’ We’re the people who are going to introduce them, going to bring them to the Republican Party.”

And while David Oh’s 24 percent might sound depressing, Presler argued that it could be a game-changer on a statewide level. If the GOP can deploy at least 20 percent of the Philadelphia vote for whomever the 2024 presidential nominee is, “it’s game over,” and the Keystone State would go into the GOP’s column.

Albert Eisenberg, a political consultant with BlueStateRed, worked for Drew Murray and Jim Hasher, the two Republicans who lost the at-large council seats reserved for the minority party.

“They were organized and funded from out-of-state,” Eisenberg said about Working Families. “They’re operating as a branch of the Democratic Party. They’re not a minority party. They’re clearly collaborating with the local Democrats. They endorsed people in the mayoral and city council races.”

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro endorsed Working Families Councilwoman Kendra Brooks.

Eisenberg also said the media, including The Inquirer, was “not curious about what it means to be supported by the democratic socialists.”

“They are the people that helped organize the Hamas rally on Walnut Street,” said Eisenberg. “And if it were a white supremacist rally, you’d better believe The Inquirer would have been all over it. I would say there was a lack of curiosity on the part of the left-leaning media people. Look how they cover (District Attorney Larry) Krasner.”

Until there is “more balance” in the media and in Philadelphia’s elected officials, “the city is going to just keep going backward,” he said.

Temple Political Science Professor Robin Kolodny said, “I do not think it is appropriate to say that the Republican Party in Philadelphia did anything ‘wrong’ in 2023. Political movements are only as robust as the number of your supporters, so this reflects that Philadelphia and its surrounding counties are trending more Democratic.

“In other parts of the state, the Republican Party is dominant, and the Democrats are less effective. The real question for Republicans everywhere is whether new voters are going to join their party or not. Every day, someone turns 18 years old, and someone else passes. If those people are of the same party, nothing changes. That is what a lot of organizers are paying careful attention to,” Kolodny said.

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PA Voters Have Four Weeks to Apply for a Mail In Ballot for Nov. 7 Election

From a press release

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt today reminded registered Pennsylvania voters that they have until 5 p.m. Oct.  31 to apply for a mail ballot for the Nov. 7 municipal election. Ensuring that our elections are conducted securely, freely, and fairly – and that every eligible voter can make their voice heard – are top priorities of the Shapiro Administration.

“Voting by mail is a safe, secure, and convenient way to make your voice heard in the upcoming election,” Schmidt said. “Voters can apply online for a mail-in or absentee ballot, or they can apply in person at their county board of elections office.

“I encourage all voters to take time today to request their mail ballot so they have plenty of time to receive it and then return the voted ballot before the deadline, which is 8 p.m. on Nov. 7.”

As soon as voters receive their mail ballot, they should:

  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Fill out the ballot, being sure to follow instructions on how to mark selections.
  • Seal the ballot in the inner secrecy envelope marked “Official Election Ballot.” Be careful not to make any stray marks on the envelope.
  • Seal the secrecy envelope in the pre-addressed outer return envelope.
  • Complete the voter’s declaration on the outer envelope by signing and writing the current date.
  • Affix a postage stamp to the outer envelope before mailing.

Voted mail ballots must be received by a voter’s county board of elections by 8 p.m. Nov. 7, Election Day. Mail ballots received after that time do not count, even if they contain a postmark before the deadline. Some counties may provide drop boxes or drop-off sites for mail ballots. Voters should check their county’s website for information on locations.

Pennsylvanians can also request their mail ballot, complete it, and return it in one visit to their county election office until 5 p.m. Oct. 31. Voters are encouraged to check their county election office hours before making the trip.

Pennsylvania voters also have the option of voting in person on Election Day at the polls, which will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 7. Voters can find their polling place on

Voters who received an absentee or mail-in ballot may vote in person on Election Day if they bring their mail ballot and outer return envelope with them to be voided. After they surrender those materials and sign a declaration, they can then vote on a regular ballot.

Voters who requested a mail ballot and did not receive it or do not have it to surrender may vote by provisional ballot at their polling place. The provisional ballot will be reviewed by the county board of elections after Election Day to determine whether it can be counted.

“Whichever voting option you choose – by mail ballot or in person at the polls on Election Day – the important thing is to exercise your constitutional right to vote and let your voice be heard,” Schmidt said.

For more information on voting in Pennsylvania, call the Department of State’s year-round voter hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA, visit, or follow #ReadytoVotePA on social media. is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese and offers online voter registration, a polling place locator, and county boards of elections contact information. It also includes voting tips for first-time voters and members of the military.

Citizens Find Problems with Chester County Voting Rolls

With the Nov. 7 general election only months away, a group of Chester County residents recently gave the Board of Elections information about problems with the voter rolls.

The issues they found included 144 registered voters who moved to different states or counties yet were still listed as voters. The voters were found to have moved to California, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, and South Carolina.

Working in pairs, the residents visited homes using information from the National Change of Address (NCOA) database.

Of the names and addresses visited, they found 70 percent had moved away. They talked to current residents and neighbors to determine if the registered voter they sought lived at the address listed.

The volunteers later used information from the real estate Multiple Listing Service and other online data to confirm their findings.

They also estimated that another 2,180 people who could vote in Chester County no longer live there. And 30 active voters who moved from Pocopson precinct 530 were also included.

“In our review of the voter registration system, we have found the process woefully in need of reform,” the residents wrote in a letter to the Board of Elections. “Chester County has displayed a pattern of only performing statutory duties when threatened with a lawsuit.”

One person involved in the effort, Diane Houser, said the residents decided to investigate after learning that people on the voter rolls but no longer living in the county could have voted in 2022 in Chester County by mail. If no one answered the door when they canvassed, she said, they talked to neighbors who often knew whether a family had moved.

“We are just a group of concerned citizens,” said Houser. They started with about seven people. More joined them. “We’ve been sharing our concerns with the county.”

Because two Common Pleas judges now sit on the Board of Elections, Houser said she hopes they will be receptive to improving the voter rolls. This year the BOE includes Judge Bret Binder, Judge Analisa Sondergaard, and Commissioner Michelle Kichline.

In 2019, the watchdog group Judicial Watch sent Chester County officials a letter noting its voting rolls needed to be updated and violated various statutes.

“The county reported removing only five voter registrations in the last two-year reporting period on the grounds that the registrants failed to respond to an address confirmation notice and failed to vote in two consecutive federal elections,” Judicial Watch wrote. “This is an absurdly low number for a county of this size.” The county also has a 97 percent voter registration rate.

Similarly, in 2021, Judicial Watch notified the county of voting violations, including more registered voters (100.86 percent) than citizens old enough to vote. And a 2021 study of state representative districts by Douglas Frank, Ph.D., showed that nearly 100 percent of the elderly are registered to vote and are voting.

“We want to wake people up and let them know what we’ve uncovered,” Houser said.

“Board of Elections is reviewing the information provided in the letter,” said county spokeswoman Rebecca Brain.

Separately, a group called Chesco United found 66 Chester County voters registered before they were born; 166 people voted before they were registered; 3,300 voters lived in apartment buildings but had no apartment number; 13 voters lived in commercial office buildings; 40 voters lived at U.S. Post Office addresses; and 46 voters lived at a hotel for more than a year.

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The Off-Year Election Season Begins Next Week. Here’s How to Vote in DelVal

May 16 is Municipal Primary Day in Pennsylvania. Voters will head to local precincts to decide which candidates will participate in the 2023 off-year November elections.

While not as high-profile as state and national elections, this year’s contests will let voters decide who controls numerous critical local offices, including school boards and judgeships.

Since the infamous Florida 2000 election, the voting process has itself become political. Pennsylvania has seen a wave of voting reforms in recent years, and it can be hard for the average voter to keep up with the changes.

Here are the most important rules for voters planning to cast their ballots this year in the Delaware Valley and beyond.

Mail-in voting. During the pandemic, Pennsylvania adopted a no-excuses mail-in voting system. Voters may apply for a mail-in ballot and receive one with no questions asked. The deadline to do so for the primary elections is Tuesday, May 9. For the municipal general elections on November 7, it is Oct. 31. 

Kelly Cofrancisco, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County, told DVJournal that the “most notable changes” to mail-in balloting are “the date requirements.”

“Voters must sign & date the Voters Declaration, expressing the date with month, day and year; and use the date of the day they signed the envelope,” Cofrancisco said.

She said the county itself “changed the color of the inner secrecy envelope to yellow” this year in an effort to “cut down on the number of ‘naked’ ballots, as that is the most common reason we reject ballots in our elections.”

“Voters should seal their ballot into the yellow envelope & then insert the yellow envelope into the white envelope,” she said.

In both the primary and the municipal elections this year, county boards of election must receive mail-in ballots by 8:00 p.m. on the election day (May 16 and Nov. 7, respectively).

In addition to directly mailing their ballots to their respective county offices, Delaware Valley voters can also drop off their ballots at numerous drop boxes in the area. Montgomery County, Delaware County, Chester County, and Bucks County have all published locations of their drop box locations.

Except in narrow circumstances involving disabled voters, ballots can only be returned by those casting them. “Ballot harvesting” — collecting ballots on behalf of others and delivering them to voting authorities — is disallowed by Pennsylvania law.

Voter ID. Pennsylvania has a lax voter identification law. Voters do not need to produce photo identification in order to cast their votes and only need to provide any kind of identification in limited circumstances.

The Pennsylvania Department of State stipulates a voter must produce identification only when he or she votes at a precinct for the first time. If they lack a photo ID, voters can use bank statements, utility bills, paychecks, or several other non-photo forms of ID.

After their first visit to a polling station, voters “need not show any identification unless otherwise noted in the poll book,” the state says.

Voters casting a mail-in ballot must provide either a driver’s license number, part of a Social Security number, or one of several forms of photo ID.

Voting times. Polls are open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., including in the primary election. Voters in line by 8 p.m. should be allowed to cast a ballot.

Who can vote in the primary? Pennsylvania is one of nine states with closed primaries, meaning only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates during partisan spring elections. (The state allows “all voters” to cast ballots for “constitutional amendments,” “ballot questions,” and “any special election contests held at the same time as a primary election.”)

The Delaware County elections office said on May 16, the 163rd State Representative District will elect a new House Representative while Radnor Township’s 4th Ward (Precincts 1 and 2) will choose a new Township Commissioner. All voters are eligible to participate in these contests.

“In both special elections, voters should be aware that the winning candidates will take office shortly after the election,” the county said. “This is unlike the primary contests, where candidates are seeking the nomination to represent a party on the November ballots.”

The closed primary system may change shortly. State Sens. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) and Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) introduced a measure last month to move Pennsylvania to an “open primary” where independents can cast ballots for major party candidates.

Currently, the only option for independents is to register as a major party member before an election. The 15-day deadline for doing so in the May primary has passed, but there’s still plenty of time to change affiliations before the November municipal election.

DelVal voters can review local voting rules information on the Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware county websites.

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PA GOP Embraces But Rebukes Mail-In Voting as It Grapples With 2022 Shortcomings

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.


To overturn Act 77, Pennsylvania Republicans say they have no choice but to embrace it.

Three and a half years after the elections overhaul became law, it continues to be a central animating force in GOP politics, one that consumes precious time and energy in the party’s efforts to strategize, but also one that still foments resentments in the factional rifts between grassroots versus “the establishment.”

Wrestling with a disappointing showing in the 2022 midterm elections, the Pennsylvania Republican Party convened in Hershey over the weekend  (Feb. 4 & 5) to debate these and other strategic changes with hopes of righting the ship in time for the 2023 elections for school boards, county commissioners, and judgeships.

The party’s resolution committee adopted only two measures. The first says the party will encourage more of its members to avail themselves of the mail-in voting Act 77 created in order to be more competitive. The second measure affirms the party will try to undo the law when it has the necessary levers of power in state government — circumstances that couldn’t even possibly materialize for another four years.

“The lesson from the 2022 election is that never again can we allow the Democrats to spend 50 days banking their votes while we endeavor to bank all of ours on a single day,” Chairman Lawrence Tabas told attendees on Saturday.

Exactly how deep the support was for the two measures is hard to quantify because both were passed on a voice vote, but sources told Broad + Liberty the opposition to each measure was scant.

Act 77 became law in the era of “no excuse absentee voting,” which seemed innocuous to some Republican lawmakers who supported the law in 2019, only to see the technique become de facto voting-by-mail in 2020 with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In last year’s gubernatorial election, Democrat Josh Shapiro received slightly more than a million of his votes by mail, out of his total three million vote total, according to state election returns. Republican Doug Mastriano, by contrast, received only 187,000 mail-in votes out of his 2.2 million vote total — or about eight percent.

Those same percentages held in the U.S. Senate race, even though Republican candidate Mehmet Oz ran a much closer race against Democrat John Fetterman, losing 51-46, whereas Mastriano lost to Shapiro 56-41.

Much of the animosity towards mail-in voting came from the top of the party, as President Trump disparaged the practice repeatedly in the runup to the 2020 presidential vote.

When the General Assembly passed Act 77 in 2019, GOP lawmakers were making legislative compromises in their quest to eliminate straight-party voting, apparently at the direction of the Trump administration and the Republican National Committee.

“In the communications that were taking place between our leadership and the White House and the RNC, the brass ring for them, in their opinion, was getting straight-party voting eliminated,” Republican Rep. Jim Gregory (Blair County) said about the law after its use was radically expanded in 2020.

“In states that had, had it previously and got rid of [straight-ticket voting], you saw an opportunity for President Trump to be re-elected by a range of four to eight percent. They did not concern themselves with mail-in balloting, and they were fine with that, in the communications that I’ve been told,” Gregory added.

One source familiar with a presentation on mail-in voting given at the Hershey conference described the strategy as underwhelming and lacking breadth. That source requested and was granted anonymity by Broad + Liberty because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the closed meeting.

In counter to that notion, a representative with the state party said the presentation was a small overview that was not intended to be comprehensive of the party’s final strategy, and that a task force is still in the process of crafting that strategy.

Several other resolutions from the weekend were shelved, thus either dooming or delaying their implementation, such as one recommending the party issue endorsements in every race. In the case of the “always endorse” resolution, that idea was tabled because the change would require a change to the party bylaws.

Endorsements were a contentious issue in the 2022 races, as the party declined to make endorsements before the primary in both the gubernatorial and Senate races, with both contests hosting wide fields of candidates.

Another resolution sought to censure those Republican House members who voted for Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat, to become speaker with the new General Assembly that was sworn in last month. That resolution was tabled. Rozzi pledged to become unaffiliated if he were elected speaker — a pledge that has become the focus of political maneuverings and recriminations in the wake of his taking the gavel.

Rozzi’s tenure as speaker was destined to be short given that Democrats were expected to win two special elections which would swing the narrow one-seat majority back to their party. Republicans who voted for Rozzi appear to have been trying to delay a speakership by Rep. Joanna McClinton (D – Philadelphia/Delaware), who is seen as far more partisan than Rozzi.

Signals that Republicans would adapt but also remain hostile to Act 77 had been flashing for some time.

In a radio interview last month, Mastriano acknowledged the insurmountable disadvantage Republicans would burden themselves with if they refused to get in the vote-by-mail game.

“We probably should have used it as the Democrats had, because I don’t see how we win elections without embracing that idea,” Mastriano said. “And once we get a governor, you know, and a General Assembly that’s Republican, you know, restores to ‘voting day’ instead of ‘voting season.’’

“It offends the Republicans. And I get it. You know, I — it’s icky, but if we wanna win, we’re gonna operate within the law.”

Rank and file Republicans have harbored resentment against the GOP lawmakers who voted for the bill. That anger was sometimes even directed at Mastriano, even though Mastriano claimed to represent more of the “grassroots” than other candidates.

Montgomery County Commissioner and 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Gale, who is estranged from most of the party and its leadership, embodied those frustrations in a 2021 tweet.

“Yes, we need to repeal Act 77, but we also need to repeal and replace every Republican in Harrisburg who voted for it,” Gale tweeted. “So, don’t give Doug ‘Mail-In’ Mastriano a free pass for pretending he’s going to fix the very problem he helped create.”

GUINEY: Your Freedom Is on the Ballot This November

For an alternate viewpoint see WHITE: It’s Time for Voters to Let Democrats Know That Enough Is Enough

The choices in this year’s election have never been clearer.

Democrats want to protect your freedom while Republicans claim “freedom” in soundbites, while actually taking away your freedoms and liberty.

Democrats are working to protect eligible voters’ access to the ballot box – your freedom to have your vote counted. In Congress, Democrats voted to certify the 2020 presidential election while all but one PA Republican (who were elected on the same ballots) voted to overturn that election, nullifying the majority of Pennsylvania votes. Some Republicans continue to push false election conspiracies and threaten to decertify your voting machines. These ultra-MAGA election deniers threaten your freedom to elect your leaders.

Democratic candidates Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman and local candidates up and down the ballot are working to protect bodily autonomy for women. They have pledged to protect a woman’s right to reproductive health care – including access to contraception and healthcare during miscarriage and therapeutic abortion. Republicans in Washington and Harrisburg have been trying to take those rights away from women for decades and have promised to do so if elected. Republicans want to take away this freedom. Democrats will continue to defend it.

Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death in the United States for children age 1 to 19. Democrats in D.C. have passed the first firearm safety legislation in decades (with only one Republican vote from Pennsylvania).  The Republican majority legislature in Harrisburg continues to block sensible gun safety legislation that could protect our children. Following intensive efforts by the office of Democratic Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, the rate of gun violence homicide has decreased by 44 percent from 2020 to 2021 in the city of Chester. Democrats protect our children’s freedom to live their lives. Republicans look the other way and rely on “thoughts and prayers.”

Democrats like Mary Gay Scanlon have voted to support the economy and create jobs with the Infrastructure Act. Most Republicans voted against this measure that is helping working families. We are struggling with the effects of COVID and the ongoing effects of the war in Ukraine on our economy. Democrats are doing all they can to strengthen the economy for middle and working-class people and make corporations pay their fair share. Meanwhile, Republicans support tax breaks for the wealthy and have no plan to help the rest of us.

Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for our seniors. Democrats enacted these programs, and the official Republican Senate and House plans will put them on the chopping block. Democrats support the freedom to enjoy a reasonable retirement for our seniors – who have paid into the system. Republicans threaten that.

Democrats vote to support your voting rights, protect reproductive rights, create good-paying jobs, enable a dignified retirement for our seniors, and more. Please vote for our Democratic candidates so they can support your freedom to choose and shape your own future.


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Lawsuit Seeks to Prevent Double Voting in Philadelphia

An organization that defends election integrity says the City of Philadelphia isn’t doing enough to protect the election system from fraud, and it has gone to court to make its case.

Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE) has filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia’s city commissioners demanding that poll workers be trained to prevent duplicate votes from being counted. Every one of those ballots, the group argues, cancels a legitimate ballot cast by a law-abiding voter.

In a press release, RITE said the commissioners are “threatening to discontinue critical, commonsense, and legally required election integrity measures that safeguard against duplicate voting. According to a recent report, the justification for this shocking conduct is officials’ unjustified belief that identifying and eliminating duplicate votes somehow jeopardizes their ability to access state election administration funds. The commissioners, who were recently caught deceiving the public regarding the distribution of absentee/mail-in ballots, have ignored RITE’s repeated attempts to correct this misunderstanding of the law, threatening to conduct the 2022 election without these crucial security measures in place.”

The lawsuit asked the court to require the commissioners to conduct a basic audit of the ballots at the conclusion of the election, known as a poll book reconciliation. That matches absentee and mail-in ballots received against in-person votes.

“This simple process identified 40 such duplicate votes during the 2020 election in Philadelphia, and it is becoming increasingly important as absentee/mail-in voting grows more popular in the city and throughout the state,” the organization said. “The lawsuit also challenges Philadelphia’s inadequate training and checks at the polling place on Election Day, which, if done properly, would further reduce duplicate voting opportunities.”

Philadelphia election officials declined to respond to requests for comment.

“As reports of election abuses in Philadelphia continue to come to light, Pennsylvania voters deserve to know that local election officials are doing all that they are required to do to prevent and eliminate duplicate voting,” said Derek Lyons, RITE’s president, and CEO. “Just weeks before the election, however, officials appear determined to weaken crucial election integrity measures without any justification. Duplicate voting is antithetical to election integrity. RITE is proud to support Pennsylvania voters fighting against this flawed, dangerous, and illegal plan that would undermine the public’s trust and confidence in their elections.”

Joshua Voss, the attorney who filed the suit, said, “Election officials must protect the ballot box from duplicate voting that can occur when someone votes by mail and then later votes in person. Unfortunately, even as mail-in ballots have become more popular, Philadelphia officials have suggested they might weaken safeguards against double voting that have proven effective in the past. Our lawsuit seeks to defend the integrity of Philadelphia’s elections by ensuring that robust protections against double voting remain in place, as required by law.”

Albert Eisenberg, a Republican consultant with RedStateBlue, said that while he does not know the specific details of the lawsuit, “there absolutely needs to be more oversight on the absentee voting, drop-boxes, etc. in Philadelphia so people of all political backgrounds trust our elections. Open drop boxes with no supervision are a bad idea in a first-world democracy.”

Eisenberg added, “I believe (Senate candidate) Dr. Oz will be the first Republican in generations to get to 20 percent of the citywide vote in Philadelphia due to John Fetterman’s radicalism and a growing alienation among working Democrats toward their party’s main priorities, which are all related to social issues as life gets more expensive–and dangerous–for Philadelphians.”

Co-founded in 2022 by Steve Wynn, Karl Rove, and Bobby R. Burchfield, RITE is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rule of law in elections.

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