Pa. Dems accuse GOP county official of promoting ‘rigged election’ fears

A squabble over voter confidence in Montgomery County in Pennsylvania is playing out over talk radio airwaves.

In the midst of high profile issues with absentee ballots in the county, Republican Board of Elections member and county commissioner Joe Gale has been buying ads on WPHT- AM.

“In response to watchdog commissioner Joe Gale blowing the whistle on bureaucratic dysfunction in the voter services department, the courts have ruled to allow your vote to count and your voice to be heard,” intoned one ad.

The ballot problem had been reported by local media and highlighted by local party committees.

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Last week, a judge granted the county board of election’s request to extend hours to turn in those ballots, to alleviate voters’ concerns.

Gale, 27, is the only Republican on the commission.

The content of some of other other ads is sharper. NewsWorks tracked down a few that supported Donald Trump and attacked Democratic candidate Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro who is running for Pennsylvania Attorney General.

Democrats say fanning the flames of voter mistrust without any evidence of specific wrongdoing violates the responsibilities of an election board member.

“You have run an ad, paid for by Friends of Joe Gale, making allegations about the election being rigged in both Philadelphia and Montgomery County,” said Democratic commissioner and Board of Elections Chair Val Arkoosh during a press briefing.

“I seem to be the only member of the election board that acknowledges the fact that we’ve had turnover at the highest level in the voter services department, weeks before this huge volume election,” said Gale, referring to the September and October departures of the director and manager of voter services, respectively.

Speaking with press following an election board meeting, Gale repeatedly implied that the replacement staff, some of whom had worked for Shapiro during prior election cycles, were to blame for administrative issues with the absentee ballots.

“The employees have been working hard but as everyone should acknowledge, it’s been chaotic,” he said. “That means the lack of supervising in the department.” At the briefing, Arkoosh pushed Gale to report any evidence of wrongdoing to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office.

“I am not claiming any criminal wrongdoing,” said Gale. “What I’m claiming is I think there should be faith and confidence in our political process.”

Following the judge’s order to extend absentee voting, Gale said he has confidence in election process.

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