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Pa Election Reform

With four weeks to Election Day, acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said her office has issued directives to all 67 counties about how to handle challenges at the polls, deal with voter intimidation, and process mail-in ballots.

In a briefing Tuesday, Chapman said that all counties will also begin conducting post-election day risk-limiting audits before they send their final certifications. That’s something that was done on a test-run basis over the past three years and stems from a court settlement with former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein following her recount challenge of the 2016 presidential election which requires counties to perform “robust” audits of all election results before they are certified.

Chapman said they have directed counties to also count undated and wrong-dated ballots. But her statements came as word was coming down from the U.S. Supreme Court that in a 7-2 vote they had invalidated a lower appeals court decision that had said mail-in ballots without a required date on the return envelope had to be counted in an election from last year.

Chapman said in the morning briefing that the decision was under review before saying in an afternoon statement that every county is expected to include undated ballots in their official returns.

Chapman also lamented that state lawmakers have not passed any new pre-canvassing rules for mail-in ballots. That means that once again the process can’t begin until election day morning, meaning it will take a few days for full unofficial results to come in, adding fuel to the fire for those who have falsely claimed elections are being stolen.

There has been growing concern that some poll workers may try to interfere with the voting process this fall as has happened in isolated cases in other states.

The Bipartisan Policy Center said in a report this month that there is mounting concern that temporary election workers recruited and trained by organizations with nefarious intent may undermine security and trust in the election process.

Chapman says poll workers are considered critical workers in the state and they’ve been able to partner with federal and state agencies to make sure counties have the resources they need to ensure they are being protected and have been getting training, including about insider threats.

Chapman also said the state will update mail-in voting data daily, showing how many ballots have been approved, sent back, and what counties they’re coming from.

As of Tuesday, Chapman said 1,136,685 mail-in and absentee ballots had been requested, of which 821,181 were from Democrats and 213,204 from Republicans.

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