Progressives are mounting a massive mail-in ballot campaign. Is Pa. ready? | Friday Morning Coffee

(Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A coalition of progressive groups, including Pennsylvania-based For Our Future PA and CASA in Action, are prepping for a national day of action next week to encourage young voters to vote by mail in this November’s general election. The push comes even as county officials make frantic preparations for what’s expected to be an onslaught of mail-in ballots this fall.

NextGen America, the advocacy group founded by progressive billionaire, and onetime Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer, is hosting the July 28 day of action, according to an invitation email obtained by the Capital-Star. The group says it’s signed up more than 1,000 volunteers from across the country who will text Pennsylvanians on how to obtain a mail-in ballot. A further 300 volunteers will also work on phone banks that day, the Capital-Star has learned.

The intent of the action day is to mobilize younger voters and to encourage them to vote by mail. Organizers pointed to research showing that mail-in ballot closes the turnout gap between older and younger voters. That outreach is key because only about a quarter of voters aged 29 and younger are familiar with the process, they said.

“Gen Z voters will play a critical role in the 2020 election — not only is this the most consequential election in our country’s recent history, it’s also the first time many voters under 25 are able to use their voice in a presidential election cycle. We can’t wait until November to take action. Now is the time to develop a plan to vote, and that includes requesting an absentee ballot to vote by mail,” said Maxwell Frost, the national organizing director of the advocacy group March For Our Lives, said in a statement.

The outreach in Pennsylvania is critical. President Donald Trump carried the state by barely a percentage point in 2016 when he defeated Hillary Clinton. Polls have shown Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in the state by as much as 13 points, though most observers expect the Keystone State race to be a tight one, making turnout a key determinant.

President Donald Trump waves as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House after disembarking Marine One Tuesday, July 30, 2019, following his trip to Williamsburg, Va. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour, Flickr Commons)

The issue has taken on a critical dimension amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, where it’s been presented as a safe alternative to in-person voting.

“Voting by mail is anything but a partisan issue — it’s about making sure that every person in this country has a voice that’s heard by an elected official who actually wants to listen,” Saumya Narechania, the director of states advocacy for the outreach group, All On the Line, said in a statement. “At no point should anyone living in America have to choose between their sacred right to vote and their own health and wellbeing. We’re proud to stand up and fight for the integrity of our democratic process.”

The organizing push comes amid Trump’s ongoing attacks on the effectiveness of mail-in balloting, despite the fact that the president, who is a Florida resident, has voted by mail in the past.

Trump has made five dozen false claims about mail-in voting between April and mid-June, according to a New York Times analysis. Last month, for instance, Trump claimed, without offering evidence, that this fall’s election “will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country, and we cannot let this happen.”According to Trump, mail-in ballots “could be stolen from carriers, counterfeited or forged by either forces inside the United States or by ‘foreign powers who don’t want to see Trump win,’” the Times reported.

Observers believe Trump has deployed these arguments as a prelude to undermining the legitimacy of the election should he be defeated by Biden in November. As recently as last weekend, Trump told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace that he might not accept the results.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 23: Signage at an early voting center on September 23, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota residents can vote in the general election every day until Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, a Pennsylvania state Senate panel got its first update Thursday since June 2’s primary election on the state’s readiness for this November’s general election, when even more voters are expected to cast mail-in ballots.

Lawmakers sought clarity on issues ranging from the security of ballot drop-boxes to the chance of voter fraud (an issue raised by Trump, despite scant evidence), according to the PA Post’s Emily Previti, who live-tweeted Thursday’s session of the Senate State Government Committee.

In June, the top Republican on the House State Government Committee said he wanted to take another look at state election law to prevent a drawn out vote count in November.

The call by State Government Committee Chairman Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, came  after new voting rules led to a weeklong delay in final results in the June 2 primary election, the Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported.

“We have never had expanded mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. We knew there’s going to be issues with them. And we knew we were gonna have to do a piece of legislation to address them,” Everett told the Capital-Star. “And here we are.”

For their part, the progressive activists behind next week’s outreach push are planning on going big — and not going home.

“Young voters will be the deciding factor in this election,” NextGen America States Director Jared DeLoof said. “We can’t wait for Tuesday [July 28], when a powerful team will come together to engage and inform young people about how to cast their ballots — and then for November, when we will see the results of those efforts.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

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Stephen Caruso
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Gov. Tom Wolf issued a strong rebuke to the Bloomsburg Fair over a Facebook post featuring a Rachel Levine lookalike, NEPA Correspondent Patrick Abdalla reports.

PennDOT will offer ‘non-binary’ designations on licenses, ID cards, Cassie Miller reports.

If one local school board member gets their way, the Pittsburgh Public Schools could start the new school year entirely online, our partners at the Pittsburgh Current report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Aryanna Hunter, an Army veteran, says the VA needs to change its motto to reflect the valor of women who have served the country, And new opinion regular Ana White looks at the hidden mental health toll behind voting.

En la Estrella-Capital: El ex-Gob/El jefe de DHS Ridge‘Sería un día frío en el infierno’ antes de dejar que los agentes federales ‘no invitados’ ingresen a Pensilvania, por John L. Micek. Y después de menos de un año en el trabajo, el jefe de Pensilvania de la cámara afroamericana deja el cargo, por El Tribune de Filadelphia.

(Image via Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

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Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

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You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out in advance this morning to Taylour Trostle, of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber/CREDC, who celebrates on Saturday, and to state Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, who celebrates on Sunday. Congratulations, and enjoy the day, friends.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s some new music from Bob Mould to get your weekend rolling. It’s ‘Forecast of Rain.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
The Yankees 
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And now you’re up to date.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press