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Al Schmidt Approaches PA’s Top Election Manager Spotlight PA

This article Spotlight PAcollaboration with vote beat, a bipartisan news agency covering local election administration and voting. This article may be reprinted subject to the following conditions: Votebeat reissue policy.

Former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who made national headlines in 2020 by scolding then-President Donald Trump for allegations of election fraud, has officially become Pennsylvania’s top elections official again. One step closer.

The Pennsylvania Senate State Committee, a powerful Republican-led committee that oversees election law and the State Department, advanced the nomination of Mr. Schmidt for secretary on Monday with a near-unanimous vote.

Schmidt’s favorable endorsement by the committee was just the first step in approval, but the praise he received from senators who had a history of being critical of the department was approved by the entire committee. It is a good sign that it could be The legal deadline for his nomination is Wednesday, so the vote needs to go quickly.

State Senator Chris Dash (R.Jefferson), who chairs the committee, said, “I’m going to vote today to endorse you,” but his own vote was “a fair election.” It is based on Schmidt’s assurance that In a non-partisan manner, in accordance with state law.”

State Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair) thanked Mr. Schmidt for his outspoken actions and said he was satisfied with his response before voting for his confirmation.

The only senator on the committee to vote against Schmidt’s nomination was Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin). Mastriano was one of the most vocal and visible figures in Pennsylvania backing Trump’s false allegations of 2020 election fraud.

He has also been a harsh critic of the Philadelphia election.

“Philadelphia is not a golden gem when it comes to voting integrity,” Mastriano said on one of the shows. Inquirer reporters after Monday’s hearing. “Mr Schmidt’s inaction in the recent election has made me pause. When we had a chance, we were blocked by a wall.”

Schmidt served Philadelphia as the only Republican city council member to run elections for more than a decade, and after the 2020 election, he received national attention for his forceful rejection of President Trump’s allegations of election fraud amid violent threats. became famous forPresident Joe Biden gave him the award presidential national medal This year he became the leader of the Committee of Seventies, a bipartisan good government group based in Philadelphia. Governor Josh Shapiro nominated him as a secretary.

Schmidt’s nomination will now proceed to the state Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, after which a final vote will be taken at the plenary session. By law, Mr. Schmidt’s confirmation must be considered by the entire state Senate within 25 days of the governor’s nomination, or else Mr. Schmidt will be automatically sworn in and the “deputy” portion of his title. will be left. He will be the first federally recognized Commissioner. Kathy Bookver resigns In February 2021.

Monday’s hearing was Schmidt’s second on the committee and was originally scheduled for last Tuesday. But the hearing was stopped an hour before it was due to start, after Mr. Shu explained that negotiations were ongoing between the committee and the State Department over the data requested at Mr. Schmidt’s first hearing.

At the first public hearing in late May, Mr. Dash and other Republican senators asked Mr. Schmidt a series of questions aimed at exploring the effectiveness of multistate voter roll maintenance agreements to which the state belongs. bottom. Known as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).. Mr. Dash has proposed a bill aimed at removing Pennsylvania from the treaty, but the bill is highly unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and get Mr. Shapiro’s signature.

Debate on ERIC — It has been a target of right-wing campaigners in recent months, with several leaders. Republicans announce withdrawal — dominated the conversation at that hearing, sometimes leading to controversial cross-examination from Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

Dash specifically asked Schmidt for data showing the number of ineligible voters removed from state rolls due to lawsuits, some of which were also flagged for removal by ERIC. He said ERIC was successful in identifying unqualified voters, as some retired Republican-led states claim, or provided data to assess whether states could improve on their own. seemed to be looking for Dash also asked questions about eligible but unregistered voters identified by ERIC (a feature of the program below). Republican officials also criticized.

At the first hearing, Mr. Schmidt defended ERIC as an important tool for keeping state voter rolls accurate, emphasizing that it provides information not otherwise available.

“There are elements [of voter roll maintenance] If Pennsylvania doesn’t join ERIC, it will be lost,” Schmidt said, emphasizing that there are no viable alternatives at this time.

For example, not all voters who move to another state are listed in national change of address data, which could be an alternative source, he said.

Dash is perhaps best known for leading the performance attempt by the Pennsylvania Senate. An Arizona-style survey of the 2020 election. Already now in Congress, he has sponsored the following bills: abolish mail-in ballots and Additional election audits will be required. With his appointment as Chairman of the State Government Committee, Concerns of Some Democrats and Election Reform Supporters He feared blocking proposals to gain more mainstream support.

Nonetheless, recent hearings have had some moments of agreement between the department, which is part of the Democratic administration, and the Republican commission that oversees it.

In response to Mr. Dusch’s question on election administration issues at the May hearing in Lucerne CountyA shortage of ballot papers in November hampered voting, but Mr. Schmidt was ready to talk about a solution.

“Better be very strong in helping the county by creating some kind of manual or guidance for incoming election administrators to refer to so they know X days before the election and order the necessary paperwork. We can help alleviate this problem,” said Schmidt, “the problem you just described.”

Mr. Dash agreed, voicing support for a document for election officials similar to the “continuation book” used in the military to hand over new officers.

Also on Monday, Schmidt laid out a new schedule for the state’s long-awaited voter registration system update. Election administrators often describe the current system, built in the early 2000s, as outdated, buggy, and unable to keep up with the changes brought about by Pennsylvania’s 2019 introduction of universal mail-in voting. The update was originally scheduled for later this year.

Schmidt said the ministry is now moving the release date to 2025 rather than during the 2024 presidential election, citing concerns that major institutional changes could create new problems for election officials in a presidential election year. He said he was considering it at the beginning of the year.

“Nobody wants to release a new system during a time when voter turnout is high,” he said.

It is unclear whether the state Senate will act on Mr. Schmidt’s nomination or let him take office by default. As of Monday, no hearings had been scheduled for the Rules and Officer Nominations Committee, and no state Senate-wide ballot had taken place.

New President of the Committee of Seventies, Lauren Cristela, credited Mr. Schmidt for navigating the hearing’s questions under pressure.

“I really think he’s trying to meet people where they are and listen to their concerns and present the facts,” she said. “He’s done the same with voters and media across all walks of life, and I think that’s what you see in him at conferences.”

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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/06/pa-al-schmidt-election-official-confirmation-hearing/ Al Schmidt Approaches PA’s Top Election Manager Spotlight PA

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