‘We will have to be ready,’ to protect elections every day, Black lawmakers warn | Thursday Coffee

Also: New Franklin & Marshal poll shows leads for Shapiro, Fetterman in Pa.’s marquee races

By: - October 27, 2022 7:18 am
Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman speaks during a voting rights roundtable sponsored by the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday, 10/26/22 (Screen Capture).

Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman speaks during a voting rights roundtable sponsored by the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday, 10/26/22 (Screen Capture).

If they did nothing else after leaving the Capitol on Wednesday, attendees at a voting rights roundtable should go “back home to your families, to your chapters, to your congregations,” with the message that the work of protecting democracy will extend far beyond Election Day on Nov. 8.

“We will have to be ready every election cycle to protect elections,” state Rep. Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, told a generation-spanning audience that included both undergraduates and members of the Greater Harrisburg chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, a service organization whose history stretches to the Great Depression.

And with Black and brown voters more likely to be the targets of voter suppression efforts, the roundtable, put on by the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, seemed equal parts survival manual and civic education effort.

“We can’t afford anyone being left behind,” Dwan B. Walker, the three-term mayor of Aliquippa borough in Beaver County, told the crowd over a remote connection. “Every election from here on out is important. And we have to stress that message.”

Walker, who has a 5-month-old granddaughter, said it was particularly important to spread that message to younger voters, whom research shows are less likely to turn out in midterm elections than they are in presidential years.

“We are planting the seeds for the trees we will never sit in the shade of,” Walker said.

Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus speak during a voting rights roundtable at the state Capitol on Wednesday, 10/26/22 (screen capture).
Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus speak during a voting rights roundtable at the state Capitol on Wednesday, 10/26/22 (screen capture).

As she has in other public appearances this fall campaign season, acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman said that it likely will take several days for results to be tallied in scores of races, including the high-profile contests for U.S. Senate and Pennsylvania’s governor’s office.

“It doesn’t mean something nefarious is happening … the process is playing out as it should, and election officials are counting every vote,” Chapman told the audience.

Chapman and the assembled lawmakers also stressed the safety and legitimacy of mail-in balloting, which already has begun statewide. As of Wednesday, the Department of State had received 1.3 million applications for ballots: 930,000 from Democrats and 269,000 from Republicans. So far, voters have cast a total of 687,000 early ballots, Chapman said.

The deadline to request a no-excuse mail-in or absentee ballot is Nov. 1 by 5 p.m. And all ballots must be returned — either in the mail, at a dropbox, or at your local county elections office — when the polls close at 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, Chapman said.

“If you want to mail it, you need put it in the mail at least one week before Election Day,” Chapman said, referencing recent slowdowns in mail service across the commonwealth.

(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Rep Aerion Abney, D-Allegheny, a first-term lawmaker who worked in the voting rights movement before his election to the General Assembly, said he has tried to counter attacks on the legitimacy of Pennsylvania’s mail-in balloting law, which was passed on a bipartisan vote in 2019.

Some of the Republicans who were reelected under its aegis have spent the last two years trying to topple the law. And in August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has a majority of justices elected as Democrats, upheld the law, dismissing a lower court’s ruling that found it unconstitutional.

“One of my goals in having [Wednesday’s] conversation is to dispel a lot of the information that’s out there,” Abney said. “I’ve been talking about the benefits of Act 77 [the mail-in ballot law]. There have been efforts to undermine it, and we’ve been seeing it since 2020. It’s of the utmost [importance] that people have access to this information … so that people feel that their votes are going to be counted, and that their vote matters.”

Republican governor candidate Doug Mastriano (L) and Democratic governor candidate Josh Shapiro (R) | Capital-Star photo collage by John L. Micek

Polls? We got ’em.

A new Franklin & Marshall College poll out this morning shows Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro with a 58 percent to 36 percent lead over Republican Doug Mastriano among likely voters.

Shapiro, who held a 52-42 percent lead late September, has improved his personal favorability ratings among voters, while Mastriano’s favorables have declined, the poll showed.

(Franklin & Marshall College)

The poll shows Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman with a narrow, 49 percent to 45 percent lead over Republican Mehmet Oz among likely voters. The dynamics of the race have not changed much since September, where Fetterman held a 47-43 percent lead, pollsters noted.

Both candidates also have seen their personal favorability ratings remain mostly stable over the past month, “even as they have both become better known to voters,” pollsters noted.

(Franklin & Marshall College)

More from the poll:

  • “About one in seven (13 percent) voters now has an unfavorable opinion of both candidates,
  • “More voters believe Fetterman best understands the concerns of Pennsylvanians (55 percent to 34 percent) and is closest to their views on social issues (53 percent to 35 percent),” and
  • ” … More voters believe Oz is more likely to have policies that will improve voters’ economic circumstances (43 percent to 37 percent),” according to the poll.

The poll of 620 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 14 to Oct. 23, with a sample of 280 Democrats, 254 Republicans, and 86 independents, with a margin of error of 5.3 percent. The margin of error among likely voters is 6.8 percent.

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