Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are confronting a pandemic, an economic crisis, calls for racial justice, and climate change.
Geovette Washington, senior vice chancellor and chief legal officer, was selected as the team lead on President-elect Joe Biden’s agency review team for the Department of Commerce.
The Biden-Harris agency review teams are responsible for ensuring a smooth transfer of power, understanding the operations of the agency and preparing Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their cabinet to run the agency.
University spokesperson Kevin Zwick said Washington is on leave from Pitt, but he doesn’t have more information on the length of Washington’s leave or who will fill her position while she’s gone.
Before joining Pitt in 2015, Washington served as general counsel and a senior policy adviser for the Office of Management and Budget at the White House from 2013-15. Washington was also deputy general counsel from 2010-13 for the U.S. Department of Commerce. In this position, she was the second-highest ranking official in the Office of General Counsel in the Department of Commerce.
Source: University of Pittsburgh
Governor Tom Wolf urged the legislature to quickly pass his plan for safe and secure elections that ensures voters will receive mail-in ballots early, have time to return them, and that counties will have the time they need to quickly count the anticipated historic number of votes cast. The governor also reminded voters that the best way to make sure their vote is counted is to sign up now for a mail-in ballot and return it well before the Nov. 3 election.
“My administration continues to have great confidence in the state’s election system,” said Gov. Wolf. “Regardless of whether you cast your vote from the convenience of home with a mail-in ballot, or in person on election day, my administration has worked hard to ensure that every person has their voice heard and every vote is counted. These proposed reforms will further strengthen our elections, help people to vote safely from home, and assist counties in processing the surge in mail-in ballots.”
The primary in June was the first time that voters could use mail-in ballots after the historic, bipartisan Act 77 of 2019 signed into law by Gov. Wolf last fall. Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly embraced mail-in voting with nearly 1.5 million voters casting a mail-in or absentee ballot, more than half of all votes cast. Despite the record increase in mail-in ballots, and pandemic-related challenges, the primary was administered smoothly with few disruptions.
The Department of State and counties are using experiences from the primary to make improvements for the general election. Many counties, which administer Pennsylvania’s elections, are preparing for millions of mail-in ballots by increasing the use of high-speed scanners and other technology to quicken ballot canvassing and vote counting.
In addition, based on experience in the primary, Gov. Wolf called on the legislature to take immediate action on election improvements including:
The governor made the announcement during a news conference at Ridgeway Community Church, which serves as a polling place in Dauphin County. The governor was joined by Centre County Commissioner Chair Michael Pipe.
“If you want to vote by mail, apply now and your county will send you a ballot as soon as it is finalized,” said Gov. Wolf. “When you receive your ballot, complete it and mail it back as soon as you can so your county gets it in plenty of time.”
The Department of State soon will launch a public awareness campaign to inform voters how to apply for a mail-in ballot and will partner with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Allegheny County on voting initiatives.
Eligible voters may apply for their mail-in or absentee ballot online at votespa.com, in person at their county election offices, or by paper forms submitted by mail. Once the county determines the voter is eligible, counties will send the voter a ballot with return postage paid by the Department of State, so casting a ballot is free to voters. Voters have several convenient options to return their ballot by mail, in person at their county election office or at drop boxes, which many counties expect to provide.
Voters may register to vote and apply for their mail-in or absentee ballot online, in person at their county election offices, or by paper forms submitted by mail. The voter registration deadline for the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 19. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27. Online application for mail-in and absentee ballots are available in Spanish.
Pennsylvania is not automatically sending ballots to voters.
For voters who prefer to vote in person, polling places will be available in all counties on election day, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Source: PA Gov.
Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila, along with PLBC members, issued this statement congratulating President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris:
“I am thrilled to soon call Joe Biden and Kamala Harris president and vice president. Their presence in the White House will restore intelligence and dignity to these esteemed offices, and a sense of pride in the American people. It is refreshing to see concrete, well-crafted strategies to move our nation forward, and I look forward to seeing manifestations of this progress,” Kinsey said on behalf of the PLBC.
“Breaking through the monotony of 231 years and 48 white men vice presidents, our nation elected its first woman and woman of color vice president, making this victory nothing short of historic. I am especially in awe that a HBCU graduate and a fellow member of a Divine 9 will soon serve as America’s vice president. Reveling in this moment means so much to me as a father of Black daughters, with Vice president- elect Harris shattering a glass ceiling, ultimately becoming a beacon of inspiration for every girl of color who can now walk through this world with the confidence in knowing that their big dreams can also become reality.
“We can’t celebrate this victory in, as President-elect Biden said, ‘the battle for the soul of this nation,’ without first acknowledging the warriors of this battle—Black activists, Black organizers and Black voters across Pennsylvania and the nation. It was their tireless efforts that ensured countless voices were heard loud and clear, especially over the racket of vicious voter suppression tactics. They organized and mobilized communities to exert their immense political power, and down to the days after, these community-builders occupied the streets demanding that every vote, every voice, was counted. We owe them a great deal and we must continue to support their labor in establishing political power. As legislators, however, the only way we can wholly repay them is to enact meaningful policy to satisfy their demands for true criminal justice reform, ending police violence, investments in marginalized communities, dismantling health disparities, especially in the wake of COVID-19, and ensuring equal access to opportunities that afford upward mobility.”
A federal district court judge today dismissed a lawsuit brought by President Trump’s campaign for reelection against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and seven counties, dealing a crippling blow to the president’s attempts to undermine the election’s expected results in the commonwealth. In an amended version of the lawsuit filed on November 15, the Trump campaign asked the court to order the Department of State to not certify its presidential election results because some counties contacted and permitted voters to fix mistakes with their mail ballot declarations while others did not.
Judge Matthew Brann rejected these arguments, saying, “(T)his Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations...unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state.”
Intervenors in the case hailed the ruling as a victory for democracy and for the state’s voters. Last week, Judge Brann granted intervention by Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, and eight impacted voters, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP. That ruling allowed the lawyers for the organizations and voters to participate as parties in the lawsuit.
“This is a victory for voters. All voters deserve to have their voices heard and their ballots counted,” said Suzanne Almeida, elections advisor for Common Cause Pennsylvania. “This lawsuit was a blatant attempt to change the rules after the election was over and silence the voices of the people. Voters in Pennsylvania and around the country have made a clear decision. It’s time for the results of this election to be accepted and the will of the people honored.”
Along with Boockvar, the Trump campaign also sued the boards of elections of Philadelphia, Allegheny, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, and Centre counties.
“This case sought to invalidate the votes of our clients and, at its most extreme, the votes of nearly seven million Pennsylvanians,” said Mimi McKenzie, legal director of the Public Interest Law Center. “We hope this decision ends the farce that this campaign has put Pennsylvania voters through these last few weeks. We are pleased that truth and democracy has prevailed over wild conspiracy theories, false claims, and unfounded fraud charges.”
“Pennsylvania voters have spoken in greater numbers than ever before, and today’s decision confirms the sanctity of the vote,” said Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “It is time to move past the desperate accusations, stop the perpetuation of false claims, and accept the choices of Pennsylvania voters.”
Despite numerous filings in this and several other cases, the Trump campaign has yet to produce evidence of misconduct that impacted actual votes or the results of the election. In their own filing asking the court to dismiss the case, the intervenors noted that the law required the Trump campaign to bring its objections over process before the election, which was a position that the Trump campaign itself held in 2016 in response to a lawsuit brought by Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
“This ruling rejects the Trump campaign’s baseless attacks on the election results in Pennsylvania. It is past time for the campaign to stop its shenanigans and move on. The voters have spoken,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
“This should put the nail in the coffin on any further attempts by President Trump to use the federal courts to rewrite the outcome of the 2020 election,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The court could not be any clearer in underscoring the baseless and meritless nature of the claims presented in this case. Voters across the commonwealth overcame tremendous obstacles to register their voice, and this suit sought to disenfranchise them without a scintilla of evidence.”
While the Trump campaign has the option to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, election-related deadlines loom, including Monday’s deadline for counties to certify their results with the Department of State.
“The court saw through the attempts by President Trump and his enablers in Washington and Harrisburg to interfere with democracy,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The people of Pennsylvania have had their say, and it is time to put this election behind us.”
More information about this case, including a copy of today’s ruling, is available at aclupa.org/trumpvboockvar.