This article is Spotlight PAcollaboration with vote beat, a bipartisan news agency covering local election administration and voting.This article may be reprinted under the terms of Votebeat reissue policy.
Republican Al Schmidt, who famously received death threats in 2020 to stand up to former President Donald Trump’s allegations of election fraud, has been named Pennsylvania’s top election official.
Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro said in a news release that Schmidt’s selection to lead the Pennsylvania State Department was “essential in the effort to protect our democracy and prevent the Pennsylvanians’ vote from being rejected. He said that it was because it was a good part. After the 2020 election. Schmidt served as a city commissioner overseeing elections in Philadelphia. 10 years.
“Al Schmidt has a proven track record of defending our democracy, defending our voting rights, and fighting extremism, and even in the face of serious threats, I will make him the next Secretary of State for Pennsylvania. I am proud to be nominated,” Shapiro said. in a news release.
In an interview with Votebeat and Spotlight PA late Wednesday, Schmidt said improving the voter registration process, as well as how voting and counting are being done, is a priority, in line with the position Shapiro outlined in the campaign trail. I was.
Schmidt also stressed the need to refute election misinformation. This is what the State Department highlighted in response to a question about how it can help local election officials.
“It’s a huge advantage that I’ve been running elections in the field for the last 20 years. I know very well what counties need to be successful,” he said. “One of the components of that, and one that I really appreciated, was monitoring election lies aimed at undermining confidence in the Philadelphia results that were broadcast before the election. Lying is harmful, so it’s important not to ignore it.”
Events surrounding the 2020 election have elevated Schmidt’s profile from local election officials to a trusted public voice on vote management and misinformation.
The 2020 Philadelphia election was highly scrutinized as workers counted an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. This is a multi-day task. Conspiracy theories about the integrity of the election and the process in Philadelphia were so rampant in his media that Schmidt began debunking them in interviews with national media.
for example, CNN, Schmidt refuted the claim that the dead voted. Asked about Trump’s other allegations, he said, “I think people should keep in mind that there are bad actors who are lying.”
Shortly after that interview, Trump tweeted that Schmidt, whom he called a Republican, was “heavily taken advantage of by the fake news media” and refused to see Trump’s allegations of election fraud.
If there was fraud, Schmidt said Philadelphia officials would have investigated it and referred him to law enforcement as he had done. have personally been in the past.
Schmidt’s stance is backlash No Republican officials from Trump and his allies, and state Republicans, came to his defense.
Schmidt’s policy priorities
Schmidt said he intends to drive process improvements, specifically Need for more time to pre-research vote-by-mail ballotswhat he said he heard near universal agreement.
“This is a problem and we all know it is a problem. In other states, it was easily solved by allowing pre-investigation before Election Day,” he said. rice field.
He said the lack of pre-campaign troops delayed the reporting of election results, leaving vulnerabilities that bad actors could exploit.
In early 2022, Schmidt stepped down from his role as commissioner and became chairman of the Committee of 70, a Philadelphia-based philanthropic group that has historically advocated election reform.
During the summer Schmidt also Witnesses who provide live testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol.
He told the committee that after Trump’s tweet, he received more “specific” and “graphic” threats directed at him and his family.
One such threat came in the form of an email to his wife. According to the New York Times“HEADS ON SPIKES. TREASONOUS SCHMIDTS” and a picture of the exterior of their home.
2020 onwards, Schmidt continued to speak out against his fellow Republicans When he believed they were pursuing poor electoral policies, such as the state Senate’s attempt to reconsider the 2020 election.
“The Senate calls this effort a ‘full forensic investigation,’ an examination of ‘election integrity,’ and perhaps most ridiculously, an ‘audit.'” read the article he co-authored“Though these conditions may sound formal, in reality they only serve to mask the dangerous nature of the Senate’s actions.”
He also advocated for change through written editorials Current Acting Federal Secretary and with Lee Chapman Testimony to the U.S. Senate Rules Committee About the threats facing election administrators.
Most governors fill their cabinets with members of their own party, but it’s not unheard of for them to make cross-party nominations. Shapiro’s transition team includes several Republicans.
Election administration has become one of the top priorities for the 2022 gubernatorial election.
In an interview, Shapiro’s opponent, State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), repeatedly emphasized the governor’s authority to choose the state’s top elections officer.Shapiro Highlighted Mastriano’s support for Trump’s 2020 fraud allegations When amplified Speculation is rife that Mastriano was planning to appoint Toni Suppe, the election conspiracy theorist who will lead the audit of the Vote PA, as his secretary.
Schmidt, 51, is from Pittsburgh and graduated from Allegheny College in 1993 with a BA in History.
After earning a doctorate in history from Brandeis University in 2000, he worked for five years as a senior analyst at the U.S. Government Accountability Office before moving to Philadelphia where he served as executive director of the city’s Republican Commission. , then served as State Advisor. Republican Party.
He ran unsuccessfully for city administrator in 2009, won the election to serve on the city council of Philadelphia in 2011, and spent the next decade helping oversee elections for the state’s largest municipality. I was.
“Al Schmidt is someone I’ve worked with for over a decade,” said Seth Bleustein, Schmidt’s former lieutenant and then mayor, in an interview with Votebeat and Spotlight PA. said in “His professionalism and integrity are unmatched and I am confident he will make an excellent Secretary of State.”
Carter Walker is a Votebeat reporter affiliated with Spotlight PA.contact carter firstname.lastname@example.org.
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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/01/pa-election-josh-shapiro-governor-al-schmidt-secretary-of-state/ Al Schmidt Named Pennsylvania’s Chief Election Manager Spotlight PA