Friday, October 30, 2020

Pennsylvania prepared for civil unrest related to election

Gov. Tom Wolf and his top election official told reporters the state was prepared for civil unrest related to Tuesday’s election, and officials are talking daily about things that might trigger problems, reported The Morning Call.

Wolf, a Democrat, also fired back at Republican President Donald Trump over his statements ― some made at a Trump rally at HoverTech in Northampton County on Monday ― that Trump would be “watching” Wolf’s count of state votes.

“I think the president was mistaken in terms of saying that he was watching me," Wolf told reporters during a news conference. “In Pennsylvania, I don’t count; I don’t think in any state the governor actually counts the votes.”

Concerning potential unrest, Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar described a multiagency team, formed in 2018, that has talked daily about things that might trigger unrest on Tuesday or soon afterward.

“I am not sure what the reason might be for unrest, but if there is, we have been preparing for it,” Wolf said.

The task force includes the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, state police, the governor’s office, the National Guard, and other agencies.

“Everybody is aligned to make sure that we are not only preparing in advance but ready to react if needed and also to diffuse the tensions that we know are going to be present," Boockvar said.

Wolf and Boockvar hit on several other issues related to the election, including COVID-19 precautions, the timing of results and a high-profile court case in which Republicans have sought to exclude mail-in ballots received after Election Day.

The election will happen amid a surge of coronavirus cases and increasing hospitalizations in Pennsylvania. Wolf said masks, sneeze guards and hand sanitizer have been provided to counties, and because of a huge number of mail-in ballots, lines at polling places are likely to be shorter than they might otherwise be.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not do a quick review of a Republican appeal to exclude those ballots. It remained possible the justices could take up the case after the election, and it remained unclear whether the ballots will ultimately be counted.

On Thursday, Boockvar said all 67 counties have been told to segregate any ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Those ballots will be tabulated and recorded separately, she said. The question of whether they will actually count might depend on the court case.

“There is a lot of noise out there. We don’t know what is going to happen," Wolf said. “The Supreme Court may or may not decide to take this up again after the election.”

Wolf and Boockvar said that as of Thursday, 2.1 million mail-in ballots already had been received.

Some counties ― but none in the Lehigh Valley ― reportedly have said they will not start counting mail-in ballots until Wednesday. Boockvar said it was “only a handful” of counties, and she intended to talk to each one of them.

“I want every one of them starting on Election Day,” she said.

Wolf said that with an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, results likely would not be available Tuesday night.

“We will have accurate results even if that takes a little longer than normal. On Tuesday night, and the days that follow, I encourage all of us to take a deep breath and just stay calm," Wolf said. "We will have a fair election. Mail-in voting is secure. And going to the polls is safe. We will have accurate election results within a few days.”

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