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Local News

Pa. Department of State announces training team for county election directors

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt holds an election night press conference Nov. 7, 2023 (Credit: Commonwealth Media Services)

Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 20, 2024

The Pennsylvania Department of State on Wednesday announced the launch of an election directors training team, focused on providing support and education for county election directors across the state.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt said the department was working to ensure counties are prepared for the April primary and November general elections. 

“Because the election administration landscape has changed so much since the last presidential election in 2020, and counties have seen an unprecedented amount of turnover among their top election officials during that time, the Department made it a priority this year to offer this additional training and support,” Schmidt said in a press release.

According to the DOS, the training team, which it began building in 2023, includes “professionals with hands-on experience overseeing elections in Pennsylvania counties.” 

A spokesperson declined to name who the officials are, citing privacy concerns. The team has conducted 20 trainings on nine different topics, with two additional sessions planned before the April 23 primary election, according to the DOS. 

Schmidt described the training as including “everything from ballot completion deadlines to managing hundreds of polling places.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro announced last month he was reviving a task force first established by former Gov. Tom Wolf, to mitigate threats to Pennsylvania’s election processes and protect voters from intimidation. The Election Threats Task Force, overseen by Schmidt, includes federal, state and local law enforcement and security, as well as election administration partners. 

Pennsylvania’s election administration has seen changes in recent elections — including the introduction of no-excuse mail-in voting in 2020 — that have been the subject of lawsuits, as well as widespread misinformation. 

The question of whether ballots with missing or incorrect dates should be counted or discarded has played a role in the state’s elections since Pennsylvania’s no-excuse absentee voting law took effect in 2020 during the pandemic.

The outcome of a lawsuit now before the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will determine how mail ballots are handled in the 2024 presidential election. Pennsylvania is considered a must-win state for either presidential candidate.

During an appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club last month, Schmidt called turnover among experienced election officials in counties across the commonwealth “a real concern,” noting that 70 senior directors or those directly underneath them had left, often meaning significant changes within the same county.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.