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November 18, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Pennsylvania voters have had a rough few months. Just in the last six weeks, county officials have confirmed that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania ballots have been lost, delayed, misprinted, or even destroyed. Countless other ballots were mishandled by postal workers or election officials following illegal guidance from the Department of State that disproportionately benefitted Democrats.

While Pennsylvania leadership has celebrated the general election in the state as “incredibly safe and secure,” Trump’s top attorney Rudy Giuliani captured it more accurately as a “disaster.” Below is a breakdown of the many snafus that made Pennsylvania’s election one of the most poorly-run in modern American history – a failure that demands not just an audit or a recount, but a complete do-over.

Missing Votes, Ballots Glitches, Permanent Delays

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of mail-in ballots for the general election simply disappeared. As of October 29, nearly 75% of the 40,000 mail-in ballots requested in predominately Republican Butler County never were returned. The county elections bureau has estimated that thousands have been irretrievably lost, blaming the USPS, which denies responsibility.

On November 6, Berks County reported the loss of several hundred ballots, which allegedly went missing at a mail center. Election officials offered little hope for affected voters. The chairman of the election board said, “It's unfortunate, but there's no playbook.”

Post-election “sweeps” of USPS facilities in Pennsylvania turned up another 1,700 ostensibly lost ballots. USPS may have mismanaged more than 100,000 Pennsylvania ballots, according to an independent analysis based on delivery data. Over 30,000 ballots for the general election either have no return dates or ones earlier than their send dates. Some of this seeming incompetence by the postal service may have been intentional fraud. Since the election, two whistleblowers have come forward with allegations that USPS illegally back-dated ballots in Pennsylvania. One of them already appears to have been illegally retaliated against and intimidated.

Multiple counties have experienced illegal ballot tampering and spoilage problems, as well. Federal authorities revealed in September that an election worker in Luzerne County unlawfully opened and discarded nine military ballots. Investigators discovered an additional four empty absentee ballot envelopes. “The majority of the recovered materials were found in an outside dumpster,” the Luzerne district attorney stated, adding that “there is no guarantee that any of these votes will be counted in the general election.”

County officials apparently took few precautions, if any, to prevent more similarly lost votes on November 3. Luzerne released a report three days after the election, stating that the majority of poll watchers still did not correctly understand spoiling or voiding procedures by election day.

Illegal ballot destruction is also under investigation in Fayette County. “They literally stole my vote,” said one Republican voter whose ballot went missing after being wrongfully opened at an election office. In October, the Lehigh County district attorney’s office charged an elections judge who admitted to filling in voters’ selections around thirty times in the primaries.

On top of the loss of thousands of ballots, disenfranchisement of Pennsylvania voters and distortion of the state’s vote total may have been exacerbated by a rash of delays and glitches. In GOP-dominated Westmoreland County, the delivery of over 60,000 mail-in ballots did not even begin until midway through October. The county still reported delays four days before the election.

Westmoreland officials blamed Midwest Direct, a company that they hired out for ballot printing and delivery. Neighboring Allegheny County, a Democratic stronghold that used Midwest Direct, nevertheless was able to send mail-in ballots nearly two weeks before Westmoreland disclosed the initial delays.

At the same time, 29,000 of Allegheny’s ballots from Midwest Direct were affected by a “glitch” that misprinted voter information. Election officials counted the flawed ballots and have suggested that all of them were returned, even though the county mailed out duplicate ballots to impacted voters in October. The Allegheny election board refused Republicans’ requests to inspect security measures that the county claimed to put in place for processing the misprinted ballots.

Other glitches include one in Fayette County that marked an unidentified number of up to 1,100 ballots as sent, although they never were. Like Allegheny, the county mailed duplicate ballots to everyone who might have been affected, although the full extent of the problem was never identified. At least 1,200 Pennsylvania voters from three other counties also received duplicate ballots for no apparent reason. This number could be higher, as officials, again, couldn’t determine exactly how many ballots were involved.

Duplicate ballots pose special risks in Pennsylvania given the notorious inadequacy of the state’s voter registration records. An official audit of SURE, Pennsylvania’s voting record system, revealed tens of thousands of “potential inaccuracies.” The Auditor General’s office identified 13,913 possible cases of duplicate records and more than 24,000 instances of the same driver’s license number in more than one voter file.

Due to the Department of State’s “failure to provide the necessary information,” the Auditor General stated that his department inevitably was “unable to determine with any degree of reasonable assurance that the SURE system is secure” or “accurate.” Lawsuits by public interest groups have alleged over 21,000 dead people and up to 800,000 inactive voters on Pennsylvania voter rolls.

Voting Machine Breakdowns

On election day, voting machine failures were recorded in nearly every major Pennsylvania city, including multiple in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Philly voting machines, in particular, have been the source of recurring issues throughout the 2020 election cycle. In September, USB drives and a laptop were stolen out of the facility that houses the city’s voting equipment. A follow-up investigation showed that more than a dozen of the machines had serial numbers that didn’t match official records.

Many of Pennsylvania’s problematic voting machines were made by Dominion Voting Systems, which has been linked to election day technical difficulties in nearly every swing state. Westmoreland County reported a broken Dominion vote scanner, leading some voters to leave their ballots “in a secure lockbox under the scanner.” Similar malfunctions happened in Scranton, where voters were encouraged to “put your vote in the emergency slot and it will be scanned once the machine is unjammed.” 

Several Dominion ballot-marking machines in Luzerne County glitched on election day, as did digital polling books, which are necessary to prevent mail-in voters from fraudulently voting in-person. An undisclosed number of Luzerne voters also lost their vote when they failed to properly handle their ballot printouts from the county’s new Dominion voting machines. At least one voter said that she found a printout with completely inaccurate selections. Issues like this have been documented before in kinds of voting machines engineered by Dominion Voting Systems.

Late-Arriving Ballots

The state’s chronic ballot problems actually helped Pennsylvania Democrats in their quest to whittle away election safeguards ahead of the general election. Secretary of State Boockvar cited USPS delays in her successful petition to the state supreme court for an extended mail-in voting deadline and the removal of postmark requirements for late ballots.

Over the last two months, Pennsylvania Democrats also targeted signature analysis, ID requirements, “secrecy” ballots, among other things. With the vast majority of mail-in ballots requests coming from registered Democrats, the party hierarchy in the state had strong incentives to loosen the restrictions of voting by mail.

Supreme Court Alito, responding to a Republican petition for an appeal of the extended deadline, already has stated that “there is a strong likelihood that” the state supreme court ruling “violates the Federal Constitution.” Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined his opinion, and Alito has signaled that the high court may take the case in the near future.

On November 6, Alito ordered Pennsylvania officials to segregate late-arriving ballots, in the event that the state supreme court ruling be deemed unconstitutional. Secretary Boockvar previously had given counties an optional guidance to segregate late ballots, although Republicans argued that this rule was not necessarily being followed.

Boockvar announced days later that the state ultimately recorded and segregated 10,000 late-arriving ballots. However, there is reason to doubt her sincerity. Pennsylvania received roughly 60,000 late ballots during the three-day grace period following the primary elections in June. The general election two weeks ago featured nearly twice as many mail-in ballot requests, in addition to all of the USPS delays.

The Wolf administration has been wildly inconsistent with their estimates of late ballots. On November 5, an election official from Allegheny County told CNN that the state had received about 10,000 late-arriving ballots on November 5 alone, “based on information from the governor’s office.” Two days later, Lt. Governor Fetterman claimed that these ballots constituted “2,000, maybe 3,000 votes all across Pennsylvania.” The USPS previously had reported delivering over 5,000 late ballots to the Keystone State by Thursday.

Justice Alito’s order to segregate the late ballots also didn’t come until after the deadline to accept late ballots in Pennsylvania already had passed. If Democratic counties weren’t following the Secretary’s non-binding guidance, as Republicans alleged, untold numbers of late ballots were probably irretrievably mixed up with ballots submitted on time. Of course, Democratic officials could have just ignored Alito’s order altogether, as they ignored laws against counting undated ballots and rules mandating Republican poll watcher access.

Illegal Last-Minute Guidance

During the final weeks before the election, Secretary Boockvar promulgated a flurry of last-minute guidance, some of which already has been struck down in court. Her rule changes led to legally dubious, widely divergent election practices across the state that substantially tilted the playing field for Democratic voters.

On October 21, the Secretary informed county officials that voters who sent flawed mail-in ballots would be able to cast other, “provisional” ballots at polling places on election day. This protocol has no reference in the state’s election code and has been challenged by Republicans. It’s not clear how many of Pennsylvania’s more than 94,000 provisional ballots were cast by voters whose mail-in ballots were rejected.

In order to determine eligibility for provisional ballots, the Department of State also told county officials to examine mail-in and absentee ballots before the election and notify voters about flaws. An update explicitly urged counties to register faulty ballots in the state’s system and “generate an email to the voter advising them that their ballot has been cancelled” and “that they may vote by provisional ballot.”

The Pennsylvania Election Code bars the “inspection” “of all envelopes containing official absentee ballots or mail-in ballots” as well the “computing or tallying of the votes reflected on the ballots” before the election. These activities fall under the state’s definition of “pre-canvassing,” which can only happen on the morning of election day, or later. The state supreme court has said that “the mere act of ascertaining the voter’s identity from the elector’s declaration may violate the secrecy protections” of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Privacy protections have added import in Pennsylvania, where the security of the state’s voting record system remains an open question.

The Department of State allowed counties to implement the guidance on pre-election ballot checking and voter outreach largely at their discretion. As a result, Pennsylvanians were subject to significantly different election procedures depending on where one lived. While Republican counties varied in their approach to the department’s provisional ballot guidelines, nearly every Pennsylvania county apparently won by Biden pursued following the discretionary measures.

In Montgomery and Centre Counties, election officials conducted early outreach to voters whose ballots lacked legally-required information. Officials in Bucks County did the same, sending postcards to voters who couldn’t be reached with email.

Allegheny County refused to segregate ballots without legally-mandated “secrecy” envelopes, instead returning them “by mail to the voter with instructions on how to remedy.” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September “any ballot that is not returned in the official ballot envelope (secrecy envelope) must be set aside and declared void,” as recognized by the Department of State. In an update to the October 21 guidance, the Department of State nevertheless specifically pressed counties to try to fix ballots without the secrecy envelopes.

Monroe County may have counted ballots with missing secrecy envelopes anyway. When asked about these ballots, the director of elections claimed, “We do not keep track of that.” “I have always believed in the intent of the voter to vote,” she said.

These extra-statutory practices encouraged by the Department of State likely implicate huge amounts of votes. The Philadelphia city commissioner has said that Pennsylvania ballots without secrecy envelopes could total more than 100,000 for the general election.

A “Fundamentally Altered” Election

The Department of State continued changing voting rules with legally dubious guidance right up until election week. On November 1, Secretary Boockvar told county election officials to share voter identification with “party and candidate representatives” the day before the election, “to facilitate communication with these voters” regarding defective ballots.

This blatantly contravenes Pennsylvania law, which, again, doesn’t allow pre-canvassing before elections, and also bans the disclosure of voter information revealed in pre-canvass meetings. Majority Leader Jake Corman and Senate President of Pennsylvania Joe Scarnati called for the immediate resignation of Boockvar over this “last-second” rule change. They said that she “fundamentally altered” the election, creating a “new process out of thin air.”

As before, observance of the Secretary’s guidance often broke down along party lines. While it was generally embraced by the state’s top Democratic counties, at least seven Republican counties and one swing county refused it, according to a lawsuit filed by Republican congressmen.

The county commissioner of Lancaster said that pre-canvassing before election day, “is really not allowed by law.” He added that “there is nothing in the election code about that or in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling.”

Bucks County, meanwhile, notified over 1,600 voters whose ballots lacked signatures or proper dates, in light of the Department of State update. Erie County, which Biden flipped this year did so as well, as did Montgomery County and Philadelphia.

Election practice double-standards kept benefitting Democrats on election day and during the ballot counting process. Philadelphia officials systematically blocked the access of certified Republican election monitors before and after the election, as made undeniably clear in numerous videos and photos. Poll watchers have testified to Pennsylvania Democrats’ obstruction efforts repeatedly since the election, including one in a recent LifeSiteNews interview. President Trump’s legal team has estimated that over 650,000 votes were counted in Pennsylvania without observation by GOP poll watchers.

Democrats even have been allowed to get away with openly counting illegal votes. Allegheny officials publicly announced on November 10 that they decided to tally at least 2,300 completely undated ballots, as well hundreds of provisional ballots missing a signature. “A ballot‐return envelope with a declaration that is not filled out, dated, and signed is not sufficient and must be set aside, declared void and may not be counted,” according to the Department of State. Allegheny never appears to have been censured for this. Just miles away, Republicans in Westmoreland County fully rejected hundreds of ballots with the same flaws.

Amid unprecedented mismanagement and confusion, Pennsylvania voters deserve answers. Top lawmakers from the state legislature called for an audit two weeks ago, although they were dismissed by the state’s Democratic administration. The first step in any successful audit would be to fulfill Pennsylvania Republicans’ other demand – that Secretary Boockvar resign. Boockvar, who shut down talk of a recount, helped ensure the “scope limitations” and “denial of access to critical documents” that plagued Pennsylvania’s last major election audit. It’s hard to imagine that she wouldn’t do the same for a presidential election that she personally bungled.

Nonetheless, Pennsylvania’s election inevitably needs more than a review. It was played by two sets of rules, one of them illegal, tainted with flawed ballots, and lacked the input of countless disenfranchised legal voters. The election should be invalidated and redone, not for the sake of any candidate or party, but for the sake of our embattled democracy.

Raymond Wolfe is a faithful Catholic journalist and editor at LifeSiteNews and is happily married. He formerly worked with the Center for Family and Human Rights.