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Pennsylvania Republicans are at odds over critical mail-in voting measures

Pennsylvania Republicans are clashing over policies that would give voters more ways to submit their ballots.

Republican groups in the pivotal battleground state announced a multimillion-dollar vote-by-mail initiative at the same time state party leaders are trying to prohibit a key way of submitting those ballots.  

The Republican State Leadership Committee PAC, the Sentinel Action Fund and the Keystone Renewal PAC launched an eight-figure campaign in Pennsylvania aimed at challenging “Democrats’ vote-by-mail advantage,” they said in a statement. The groups are planning outreach efforts to inform disengaged voters and swing voters about their options and encourage them to request a mail-in ballot. 

Jessica Anderson, president of Sentinel Action Fund, a conservative super PAC, said embracing the alternative way of voting is “key for a Republican victory in 2024.”  

“As we saw in previous cycles, Republicans must be mobilized earlier in the cycle and equipped with a strategy to connect with and turn out voters before Election Day,” she said in a statement.  

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But Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are working against those efforts.  

A state Senate committee approved on a 7-4 party-line vote this week a measure that would ban the use of drop boxes and drop-off sites, which provide a way for voters to submit early ballots. They cited unsubstantiated claims that the structures are unsecure and promote election fraud.  

Anderson said that if the law is changed, the Republican groups will “adapt” their mission. 

“We are focused on using every legal tool available to win at the ballot box,” she said in a statement to USA TODAY.

Chester County, Pa. election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots at West Chester University in West Chester on Nov. 4, 2020. Law enforcement agencies, civil defense officials and election administrators have begun meeting in Pennsylvania to coordinate how they will identify and fight election threats with the presidential contest just eight months away in the battleground state, Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration said Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.

Republican officials in Pennsylvania also filed a lawsuit challenging a local law to allow drop boxes in Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs during the state’s presidential primary in April.  

The Republican plaintiffs in the case argued that the law was enacted without the consent of the county’s board of elections and violated state rules. A majority of the three-member board must now vote to approve the satellite ballot sites.

Similar challenges have been filed by Republican officials across the state, including an unsuccessful attempt to amend the rules for drop boxes in the region around Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the fall.  

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a group that supports Democrats in state races, criticized the Republican groups and accused them in a statement of hypocrisy around mail-in voting. 

“The RSLC is finally deciding 4 years too late that they want to catch up to modern campaign tactics,” Abhi Rahman, communications director for the group, said in an email to USA TODAY. Rahman added that the discrepancy with state Republican lawmakers shows “just how unorganized the two organizations are.”

Drop boxes first sprung up during the 2020 presidential election at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as a safe alternative for voters to submit their ballots.  

At the time, then-President Donald Trump falsely claimed that drop boxes led to rampant election interference. He and his allies launched an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to block their implementation in Pennsylvania that year. They later cited the drop boxes in unsubstantiated claims about mass voter fraud.  

Sentinel Action Fund was founded by Heritage Action, a nonprofit affiliated with the influential right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, which has advocated for state laws restricting drop boxes.

An Associated Press investigation later found that no cases of fraud or theft as a result of the drop boxes influenced the election.  

Since then, however, several states, including Arkansas and South Dakota, have passed bans on the use of drop boxes, and lawsuits against the use of drop boxes have become common, particularly in swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

Source link : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2024/03/22/pennsylvania-republicans-mail-in-voting/73055625007/

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