Accusations by a group of Pennsylvania legislators of voting improprieties are the result of those lawmakers using an unfinished data set in a way that it is not intended to be used, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.
The allegation, which asserts that more votes were cast in Pennsylvania last month than there are people who voted, stems from use of a publicly accessible data set that lists Pennsylvania’s voters and their voting histories.
A group of legislators, led by Lebanon County state Reps. Frank Ryan and Russ Diamond, issued a letter on Monday claiming their calculations “raise even more troubling questions regarding irregularities in the election returns.”
The Sentinel was able to replicate a set of results Diamond had posted to Twitter on Tuesday, confirming that the legislators had reached their conclusion by interpreting the data set in a way the Department of State has said is incorrect.
That data set is known as Pennsylvania’s Voter Export List, and is, according to the department, regularly updated by county elections bureaus for public use, generally by political campaigns seeking which voters to target.
That file lists each voter with dozens of possible information fields for counties to fill in. One of those fields is the voter’s last vote date. Diamond’s calculations as to the total number of voters are the result of counting every voter whose “last vote date” column is filled in with the date of Nov. 3, 2020.
For many precincts and counties, this tally of the voter export file indeed yields a number lower than the total number of ballots cast in the posted election results. Statewide, according to Ryan, the difference between the two figures is a little over 200,000.
This is because many voters have the “last vote date” field left blank. According to the PA Department of State, many counties are still uploading last month’s voting activity to the file. Not everyone for whom that field is currently blank should be assumed to have not voted, department spokesperson Wanda Murren said.
Pennsylvania’s election results are certified based on an audit of the paper ballots themselves, Murren wrote; the voter export file is not intended to be a perfect facsimile of this.
The fact that a spreadsheet is not yet fully filled in, or that some counties may have incompletely filled it in, has no bearing on the accuracy of the state’s certified election results, the department said.
“The legislators have given us another perfect example of the dangers of uninformed, lay analysis combined with a basic lack of election administration knowledge,” the Department of State wrote in a response to press inquiries.
Nevertheless, the legislators’ calculations provided near-instantaneous fuel for President Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories, with pro-Trump partisans claiming that the numbers were proof that a margin of votes had been fabricated.
Trump claimed in a Twitter post that, of the allegedly suspect votes, “100% went to Biden,” even though the voter export file does not tell the viewer who a person voted for.
Ryan’s letter was signed by Diamond and several other Pennsylvania Republicans who have supported Trump in his attempts to have the state’s election results thrown out.
These include local Reps. Barb Gleim and Dawn Keefer, who have also lent their support to a resolution calling on Congress to dispute the Electoral College vote as well as an amicus brief supporting Trump before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that was dismissed earlier this month.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, whose district includes Dauphin, eastern Cumberland and northern York counties, also cited Ryan’s numbers in a Twitter post, saying they “call into question” the integrity of the election as well as “the competency of those charged with its oversight.”
In a Twitter exchange with The Sentinel, Diamond said that Lebanon County was “done” uploading information about the November 2020 election to the state’s voter export file and that voters with the blank field in question had definitively not voted. Lebanon County’s elections office said Wednesday that officials who could address Diamond’s claim would not be available until after the New Year.
Zack’s 5 favorite stories of 2020
Early this year, Dickinson College was the site of mass protests over a student’s accusation that the college had bungled her sexual assault case – not giving her access to the investigation materials and ultimately rescinding a no-contact order, even though the college had found the alleged assailant culpable.
An op-ed in the college newspaper by the student, Rose McAvoy, successfully lit a fire under the college administration, which in a matter of days had met with student protestors and agreed to a list of reforms in the Title IX process — although McAvoy is currently litigating against the college in federal court seeking further redress.
The story was a real glimpse, for me, at the amount of commitment and persistence it takes for student activists to be successful, and the fact that this dedication can have real payoffs.
Dickinson College students turned out en masse Friday night to decry the school administration’s alleged shortcomings in dealing with sexual a…
On a similar note, myself and The Sentinel as a team spent a lot of time this year covering localized protests that were part of the national outcry over police brutality and the deaths of unarmed Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement.
The way in which small communities like Carlisle and Mechanicsburg deal with the issue is obviously different than in larger cities.
But here again, it was interesting to see young people often take the lead and try to pro-actively address racial disparities before they lead to violence — and to see some of the area’s more conservative politicians see these demands as inherent threats.
A group of local activists, including many current or former Mechanicsburg high school students, held a rally in the borough Saturday night wi…
With COVID-19 arriving in Cumberland County, one of story arcs that mattered to me the most this year was covering the economic needs of the community in an unprecedentedly abrupt downturn.
Talking to distressed workers, small business owners, food banks, the homeless, and others really reinforced to me how great the need is, even in a comparatively prosperous area like Cumberland County.
In many cases — such as housing costs or the under-staffing of the state’s unemployment system — the economic problems highlighted by the pandemic have their roots in issues that existed long beforehand, something I hope we as community can keep in mind as we recover.
Businesses enter an unpredictable winter without much of the economic assistance that they had in the spring. That assistance was fueled by the federal CARES Act, the multitrillion dollar stimulus package the government passed in March and which has since largely been exhausted or expired.
As somebody who has a particular taste for numbers and fine details, there is little that piques my interest more than hearing a politician make a fabulous claim about a data trend and then try to hedge when asked to quantify it.
Congressman Scott Perry certainly isn’t the first to do this, and certainly won’t be the last, but his insistence that a correlation between nursing home readmission orders and COVID-19 death rates exists, when it clearly does not, is one of the more bizarre attempts to bend a statistic for partisan gains that I’ve written about in a long time.
A war of words has raged over the past several weeks between Republican legislators and the Democratic Wolf administration over the latter’s p…
With changes and challenges to Pennsylvania’s voting system already a focal point leading up to the November election, and President Donald Trump already sowing the seeds of doubt about a surge in mail-in voting due to the pandemic, the attempt by his campaign to press county officials for compromising details on the physical security of their ballots just seemed too ham-fisted to be real.
As someone remarked to me while I was reporting the story, having the President ask for the room numbers where ballots are kept, the precise times they are moved, and the personal details of the security staff involved “sounds like the setup to a bad heist movie.”
I honestly thought rumors in the county courthouse of such an email were probably a phishing scam – until I was able to obtain a copy of the email and confirm with the Trump campaign that one of their people had indeed sent it.
“It’s almost kind of chilling the sort of data they wanted us to provide,” Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger said. “This is basically the whole security plan."
Email Zack at firstname.lastname@example.org.