Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
But also — sometimes you’re just paranoid.
The latter, unfortunately, still defines many Republicans in the commonwealth who continue to try to find an incontrovertible “smoking gun” that will somehow, against all odds, put public opinion on their side in their desire to overturn Act 77, the 2019 legislation that ushered in mail-in voting.
While this outlet still believes there is much work to be done to improve and guarantee the security of mail-in voting, Broad + Liberty would also note that many mechanisms in place for security purposes appear to be working. Yet, given that news typically only reports on what’s broken, some of these successes have gone unnoticed, so we felt obliged to highlight one in particular.
In the runup to the November election, Broad + Liberty was notified that a citizen of Delaware County believed he had witnessed a ballot drop box being stuffed with handfuls of ballots. This citizen was so shocked and concerned, he appropriately began by calling the police and filing a report.
We began to investigate immediately, and first among those efforts included a request to the county for video of the dropbox. To the county’s credit, the video was provided on the same day we requested it, and it completely contradicted what the eyewitness believed he had seen.
This is an isolated incident, and as such, it doesn’t prove that Delco’s drop-box security measures are foolproof. But it does go a long way — a very long way — in showing that the box-by-box video system was both a necessary tool and could work to gain absolute clarity against allegations of tampering. In this instance, the system worked.
This isolated incident is also instructive because it shows how quickly the county is able to produce video of contested moments. It should set a precedent we hope the county will adhere to in future disputes.
On a larger scale, state Republican officials asked the Department of State for an explanation after some vote totals displayed through the DOS website were changed on election night, a story eventually amplified by the 800-pound blog Gateway Pundit.
“Audit the Vote PA posted a video recently that shows 386,151 in-person votes were removed from Pennsylvania Republican Supreme Court candidate Carolyn Carluccio on election night,” Jim Hoft wrote on Gateway Pundit.
“Carolyn Carluccio lost 386,151 in-person votes at 9:46 PM on Election night,” while “Daniel McCaffery lost 117,549 in-person votes at 9:46 PM on Election night.”
The difference of 268,602, Hoft wrote, swung the election to McCaffery.
We inquired with the Department of State, which responded: “After voting concludes on Election Day, counties periodically report updates on their unofficial vote totals either electronically or manually to the Department of State throughout the evening. Shortly before 9:30 p.m. on election night, a county uploaded an incorrectly formatted data file to the Department of State’s Election Returns website, temporarily resulting in inflated ‘Election Day’ vote tallies for every candidate in all state-level elections. The error was discovered quickly and the incorrect data file was immediately removed, resulting in the appearance of a decline in unofficial ‘Election Day’ vote tallies cast in multiple statewide races.
“The reported unofficial numbers for total votes and mail-In votes were not affected,” the DOS concluded.
The DOS explanation satisfies Occam’s Razor, the principle that asserts that with “other things being equal, simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones.”
To be sure, many of the integrity mechanisms in place in counties from Delaware to Erie are a result of Republican activists who have kept a critical watch on their locality and raised critical issues. Chester County is the perfect example of this in which activists, armed with photos of clear violations of Pennsylvania’s “ballot harvesting” law, eventually painted the county into a corner such that a judge imposed new levels of drop-box security.
And there’s no denying that there are verifiable, proven cases of voter fraud: just ask Ozzie Myers, the former congressman from Philadelphia who was recently sentenced to prison (again) for stuffing ballot boxes. More recently, a Superior Court Judge in Bridgeport, Connecticut, ordered a new Democratic primary election for mayor be held after he found allegations of serial ballot harvesting and drop box stuffing credible. Just this week, a Louisiana judge ordered a new election for sheriff after it was determined that illegal votes had been cast, “it is impossible to know what the true vote should have been.”
Those who claim that there is no such thing as election fraud and dismiss calls to strengthen election protocols and the adherence to them — typically Democrats — are unequivocally wrong. As long as human beings are involved in elections, some among us will attempt to cheat.
On the other hand, right now too many Republicans have fallen into a mania that no amount of evidence can break. This unhealthy cynicism has run on for too long. GOP’ers obsessed with mass drop box manipulation and so forth could be getting a far better return for the expenditure of their political energies.
Indeed, we might assert some Republicans have fallen down this rabbit hole because it gives a feeling of contributing without having to do the serious grunt work of phone banking and door knocking, or excuses away the party’s broader failure to build a coalition in the commonwealth large and durable enough to withstand meddling.
Republicans must spend their time restoring faith in the election system to encourage voters to participate. Far too many Republicans are skeptical of the process and outcomes, possibly resulting in lower turnout. To that end, Republicans in the legislature must advocate for practical improvements within the existing election framework, such as overwhelmingly popular voter ID requirements, which would go a long way in restoring confidence.
Pennsylvania’s election systems are neither perfect nor impenetrable. We doubt there exists such a system. But the current paranoia has gone on long enough.