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PA’s top elections official defends election integrity organization against conspiracy claims

Al Schmidt

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt addressing reporters about the 2023 election inside the Pennsylvania capitol media center on Oct. 19, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

October 19, 2023

Al Schmidt, Secretary of the Commonwealth, spoke to reporters this week about the stakes of the Nov. 7 election and defended an election integrity organization that has gained the attention of right-wing election deniers. 

Al Schmidt, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, met with reporters in the Pennsylvania state capitol on Monday to discuss the 2023 municipal election and remind voters of important deadlines between now and Election Day. 

“Traditionally, municipal elections like the one on November 7th, attract lower voter turnout than midterm or presidential elections,” Schmidt said in a statement. “I’d like to see us reverse that trend because arguably the outcome of a municipal election has a far greater impact on the average life of a voter.”

“On November 7th, Pennsylvanians will elect school board members in some counties who set their property tax rates, municipal and county elections, or officials who will make local public safety and infrastructure decisions and local and statewide judges who interpret Pennsylvania’s laws,” he added.

October 23rd, which is this upcoming Monday, is the voter registration deadline for Pennsylvania residents who want to vote in this upcoming election. 

October 31st is the deadline for voters to apply for their mail-in ballots. 

Following his brief statement, Schmidt defended Pennsylvania’s participation in the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC), which is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization operated by election officials in different states that allows participating states to maintain accurate voter rolls. 

“Withdrawing from ERIC would have a negative impact on election integrity in Pennsylvania, as you’ve seen with the other states that have withdrawn from ERIC.”

ERIC has become a boogeyman for election-denying conspiracy theorists over the past couple of years, ever since Donald Trump claimed—without any evidence—that the 2020 election was stolen from him. 

NPR reported that the Gateway Pundit, a far-right wing media outlet, began writing a series of articles in early 2022 claiming that ERIC is part of a left wing conspiracy theory, and within days Louisiana became the first state to pull out of the organization.  

More recently, State Sen. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson), who chairs the Senate State Government Committee, held a hearing on ERIC with the secretaries of state from Florida and Ohio. Dush opposes  the organization and has a long track record of promoting theories of possible irregularities with how the state conducts elections. 

“ERIC is not a private organization. It is not some shadowy third party organization,” Schmidt told reporters.

“ERIC is made up of the member states who belong to this information sharing agreement to identify, for example, voters who might be registered in more than one state. It is a very valuable tool to safeguard election integrity.”

 

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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