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Election Denial in Pennsylvania

  • 0 Election Deniers currently hold statewide office with election oversight power.

  • 0 Election Deniers are on the ballot for statewide office.

  • 5 Election Deniers have held, or run for, statewide office since 2020.

The landscape in Pennsylvania

The Election Denier movement came to Pennsylvania almost immediately. Barely a week after the 2020 election, President Trump attacked Al Schmidt, a Republican then serving as a Philadelphia city commissioner, because Schmidt stood up to Trump’s lies about the vote-counting. Schmidt received death threats as a result.

Pennsylvania was also one of seven states where pro-Trump Republicans posed as presidential electors, even though Joe Biden had won the state. In Pennsylvania’s case, they included conditional language, presenting themselves as electors only if a court order or some other proceeding ultimately recognized them. By that point, though, Pennsylvania’s election had been certified, and there was no legitimate reason to believe the outcome would change. Eight of the state’s members of Congress were among the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn election results, even after the Jan. 6 attack. At least 80 people in Pennsylvania have been arrested and charged with crimes in the Justice Department’s investigation into the Capitol assault.

The state has dealt with many other types of Election Denier behavior. Two commissioners in Fulton County secretly allowed an outside group to copy voting machine data in an attempt to help Trump overturn the results. Republicans in another county refused to certify 2022 election results. Pennsylvania also saw campaigns against secure drop boxes and hounding of election officials. And a state budget package signed into law in 2022 included a provision that banned donations to support election funding.

But voters are the backstop. And in the 2022 Governor’s race, Pennsylvania voters rejected Doug Mastriano, one of the country’s most prominent Election Deniers, who was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and paid for buses to send people to the protest. In Pennsylvania, the Governor selects the secretary of the commonwealth, the state’s top election official. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s choice: Al Schmidt.

0 Election Deniers hold statewide Office right now.

Elections are run by the states. The Governor, Attorney General, and secretary of the commonwealth are the state officials responsible for overseeing elections. In most states, an elected Secretary of State is the chief election official. In Pennsylvania, it’s the secretary of the commonwealth, appointed by the Governor. It’s up to them to make sure the will of the people is always respected.

Read more about The Roles of Our Elected Officials in Elections

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Election Deniers

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0 Election Deniers are on statewide Ballots in races we're tracking.

Pennsylvania has a race in 2024 for at least one of the statewide offices that oversee elections. Here are the candidates.

Read more about The Roles of Our Elected Officials in Elections

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Election Deniers
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How Pennsylvania compares

Every state runs its own elections, with its own laws and processes. Check out how Pennsylvania compares with other states in its region when it comes to Election Deniers holding state election administration jobs.

Election Denial in Mideast States

Sitting official is an Election Denier

  1. In Delaware, the Governor appoints the State Commissioner of Elections.
  2. In Washington, D.C., the Executive Director is appointed by the District of Columbia Board of Elections.
  3. In Maryland, the Administrator of Elections is appointed by the Maryland State Board of Elections.
  4. In New Jersey, the Governor appoints the Secretary of State.
  5. In New York, the Co-Executive Directors are appointed by the New York State Board of Elections.
  6. In Pennsylvania, the Governor appoints the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Voter turnout over time

Voters are always the backstop against election denial, whether Election Deniers are already in office or vying for power. It’s important to turn out for every election in your state—and to vote in every race on your ballot. Downballot races, like contests for Attorney General and Secretary of State, have historically drawn fewer voters, even though the positions are critical to keeping elections free, fair, and secure. Here’s a look at voter participation in Pennsylvania elections over time. Notice that in years with several important positions up for election, some voters choose not to vote in every race.

Voter Participation in Pennsylvania Since 2016

Attorney General
Secretary of State
  1. 2016 Presidential

    • President had a 61% voter turnout rate

    • Senator had a 60% voter turnout rate

    • Attorney General had a 61% voter turnout rate

  2. 2018 Midterm

    • Senator had a 51% voter turnout rate

    • Governor had a 51% voter turnout rate

  3. 2020 Presidential

    • President had a 71% voter turnout rate

    • Attorney General had a 70% voter turnout rate

Voter turnout

Data on the number of votes cast in each race are from state elections depositories, supplemented with data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), House Election Statistics, and The Book of States. Rates are calculated using the Census’s Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) estimates. Rates will be updated when the Census releases new CVAP data for 2022.

Beyond the ballot box

Each year, state legislators introduce thousands of bills related to elections. And in the past few years, we’ve identified a concerning trend. Across the country, state legislatures are considering bills that would make it easier for partisan actors to manipulate an election, and maybe even overturn the will of the people. We’re tracking these bills along with our partners in an ongoing series of reports called “A Democracy Crisis in the Making.” In 2023 alone, through early May, we tracked 185 bills introduced in 38 state legislatures that would politicize, criminalize, or interfere with elections. 

The anti-democracy playbook is simple: change the rules and change the referees, in order to change the results. These bills go hand-in-hand with the Election Denier movement: They’re about taking power away from voters and making it harder for trusted election officials to do their jobs.

Read the full report

Legislative Interference in Pennsylvania by Category

As of May 3, 2023, 3 bills had been introduced or were under consideration in Pennsylvania. None have been enacted or adopted and none have been vetoed after passing.

These bills show that the threat to elections in Pennsylvania, and all across the country, goes well beyond the ballot box.

  • Imposing disproportionate criminal or other penalties.
    These bills would create or expand penalties for election officials in the ordinary execution of their jobs, including criminalizing inadvertent mistakes.
  • Creating unworkable burdens in election administration.
    These bills would interfere with the basic procedures of election administration, increasing the risk of chaos and delay and enabling misleading claims of irregularity.
  • Seizing power over election responsibilities.
    These bills would shift election administration responsibilities away from professional, nonpartisan officials and toward partisan actors in the legislature.
  • Usurping control over election results.
    These bills would give legislators or other state officials direct control over election outcomes.
  • Requiring partisan or unprofessional election “audits” or reviews.
    These bills would establish vague post-election review schemes without the professional standards of traditional audits.