Gov. Tom Wolf put Pennsylvania’s Republican Congressmen who plan to support largely-symbolic objections to the 2020 presidential election results on full blast Wednesday, accusing them of being willing participants in perpetuating what he called a “shameful” lie for personal political gain.
Eight of the state’s U.S. House members have affirmed their intent to support objections to the final certification of electoral votes in Congress today.
Wolf, noting all of the objecting Pennsylvanians were elected to new terms in the very same election, called their actions shameful.
“They could not have taken their own seats in in Congress in good conscience if they truly believed the election results were inaccurate, which just leaves one possibility: That they are purposely spreading disinformation about our elections for personal political gain,” Wolf said. “That’s shameful, and that’s destructive, and I cannot let it stand unchallenged.
“The problem is these folks are not telling the truth, because it’s a fact. Pennsylvania had a fair and free election. It’s a fact that there was no fraud or illegal activity in Pennsylvania. It’s a fact, that (President-elect) Joe Biden won the presidency, and to be clear, it wasn’t even close.”
The Democratic governor’s comments came during a mid-day press conference in which he, his Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and Philadelphia commissioner Al Schmidt offered full-throated defenses of Pennsylvania’s balloting and counting.
The race for Pennsylvania was tightly contested and was close, but Biden defeated President Donald J. Trump by nearly 80,000 votes statewide, a margin of slightly more than one percentage point.
Pennsylvania has also been one of several battleground states that Trump – seemingly personally obsessed with being able to characterize his defeat at the polls as something other than a loss – has spent that last two months in a thus-far vain crusade through state and federal courts to try to have the vote count set aside.
Despite the failures of Trump’s appeals, the Pennsylvania Republicans – with the exception of Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-BUcks County, have said they won’t vote to certify Pennsylvania’s results because of what they see as improper changes in election procedures by both the Wolf Administration and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that – at the least – led to inconsistencies in its administration.
Specifically, they have pointed to:
Orders by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the period for receipt of mail-in ballots by three days, to the Friday after the Nov. 3 election day deadline spelled out in state law. The court’s majority said it was ordering the extension because of well-documented problems with the U.S. Postal Service.
A Nov. 2 guidance from Boockvar that authorized notification of mail-in or absentee voters whose ballots contained technical mistakes like forgetting a signature or a date so they could either correct the mistakes or cast provisional ballots at the polls. Some counties followed through, and others didn’t and the objectors say that and other issues like the approval of direct, drop-boxes for ballots led to the election being run by different procedures in different parts of the state.
A separate guidance by Boockvar, later upheld by the state court, relaxing signature matching requirements on mail-in ballots to voter registration records, something that the objectors argue is routinely required of voters who vote in person.
Wolf and Boockvar both acknowledged under questioning Wednesday that the 2019 state law implementing major election reforms in 2020 – including the first, by-demand, mail-in voting in state history – left some critical gaps that left some things to state and county elections to interpret.
They agreed that the state’s election code, with this trial run behind it, could use some refinement.
But they defended their efforts to fill in those holes, and said they had no doubt that the election was fair and the count, accurate.
“Clearly, there were questions about interpretation of it, and I think that we would say that anything that can clarify is helpful, right?” Boockvar said. “So that the counties understand what the statute requires and doesn’t require, and that the voters can understand what is required and what isn’t required.”
But Boockvar said she stood by the numerous guidances that she issued on various issues throughout 2020 to close some of those gaps. But all of her guidances were statewide, Boockvar said, and intended to provide a uniform structure for all 67 counties to follow.
“One of the federal court judges (ruling on one of the election lawsuits last fall)… specifically said that my guidance filled gaps that the legislature had left open,” Boockvar said.
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