This article is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. This article is available for reprint under the terms of Votebeat’s republishing policy.
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania has officially declared President-elect Joe Biden as the state’s presidential winner, certifying election results for all 67 counties and bringing officials one step closer to formally closing out an election like no other.
Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday he had signed the Certificate of Ascertainment, a federally required document given to the national archivist that contains the names of the 20 electors for Biden and the 20 electors for President Donald Trump.
Counties were required to submit their certified results to Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar by Monday. In 2016, the Department of State took more than a month to certify the results.
Only Biden’s electors will go to Harrisburg on Dec. 14 to formally cast their votes for the former vice president, who won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, according to the Department of State.
Both Boockvar and Wolf praised the work of county election officials and poll workers.
“Today’s certification is a testament to the incredible efforts of our local and state election officials, who worked tirelessly to ensure Pennsylvania had a free, fair and accurate process that reflects the will of the voters,” Wolf said in a statement.
Those election officials faced an unprecedented flood of mail ballots, logistical issues made nightmarish by the coronavirus pandemic, and even death threats as Trump and state Republicans cast unfounded doubts on the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election.
Days after Nov. 3, state Republicans — including House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) and Rep. Dawn Keefer (R., York) — asked Wolf for a full audit of the election prior to certification of the results. While lawmakers said they did not have evidence of widespread fraud, many claimed state guidance and court rulings had created “chaos and uncertainty.”
Some local election boards faced heated public comments from angry voters Monday before what is normally a vote with little fanfare. Allegheny, Dauphin, Luzerne, and Montgomery Counties were among those that certified their results but not unanimously.
Before voting against certifying the election, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a Republican, attacked the state’s new no-excuse mail ballot system. He incorrectly said mail ballots were prone to fraud and likely to “cause legitimate votes to go uncounted.” All mail ballots had scannable bar codes that allowed election officials to carefully track their status and make sure each voter only had one vote counted.
In Northampton County, a spokesperson said four of the five election commissioners signed the documents to certify the election results. The member who withheld her signature, Maudeania Hornik, said she did so to protest county decisions including allowing the use of satellite drop boxes, The Morning Call reported.
Allegheny County Council Member Sam DeMarco, a Republican, was the lone “no” vote against certification, arguing that election officials did not accurately apply state law in reviewing some votes. The county Board of Elections voted to allow a few thousand mail ballots with undated declarations to be counted, an issue that went to the state Supreme Court. Justices ruled Monday that such technical violations shouldn’t disenfranchise voters.
DeMarco said he does not believe fraud occurred in Allegheny County.
The Delaware County Board of Elections voted unanimously to certify results, after a two-hour discussion, in which elections workers carefully explained various procedures called into question by suspicious residents, such as how poll books are reconciled after the election and how poll workers deliver results from voting machines to county officials.
“We’ve never done it this way before — we’ve never had you come in and explain your work before,” Elections Board Chair Gerald Lawrence, a Democrat, told an elections official who presented at the meeting. “We want to be as transparent as possible.”
100% ESSENTIAL: Spotlight PA relies on funding from foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results. Give now and your contribution will be DOUBLED: spotlightpa.org/donate