Senate committee OKs commonwealth secretary nominee



(The Center Square) — After multiple hearings, Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt’s nomination cleared his first legislative hurdle.

On Monday, the Senate State Government Committee voted 11-1 to recommend Schmidt’s nomination.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, was the only member to vote against Schmidt, who had appeared before the committee twice earlier this month.

“I will be voting to recommend you today; however, my vote is offered with the trust that you have assured this committee you will faithfully discharge the duties to the commonwealth to make sure elections are administered in a nonpartisan and unbiased manner,” said Sen. Cris Dush, R-Bellefonte, and chair of the committee.

Dush spent much of the hearing asking Schmidt for his views on securing election drop boxes, preventing ballot harvesting, and how to improve post-election audits.

Much of Dush’s concerns came from disagreement with previous secretaries about how they applied election law and election security concerns.

“Our commonwealth has an unfortunate history with some of its prior secretaries,” Dush said. “It wouldn’t be fair to blame you for their misdeeds, but it’s also fair to point out that in this position you will inherit the problems of the past.”

Schmidt, a Republican who previously served as Philadelphia City Commissioner, told legislators he would work together with them to ensure open and secure elections.

“I’m willing to examine anything that improves voter access and improves election integrity,” Schmidt said.

He also pledged to work with legislators and federal officials to create secure locations for ballot drop boxes to protect them.

Schmidt was also committed to removing non-government funding for elections, an issue that has drawn much attention from Republicans after grants from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went to Democratic-heavy counties.

“Anything related to election administration is better when you’re spending public dollars, and thanks to Act 88, private dollars are no longer a concern,” he said.

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