Updated: 3 p.m. Tuesday
After weeks of Republican candidate Donald Trump warning that Pennsylvania’s — and the nation’s — election would be rigged, one Western Pennsylvania Republican official circulated an image claiming Pennsylvanians can vote online for Hillary Clinton.
The official, according to a screenshot of a Facebook post, is Murrysville City Councilman Joshua Lorenz. Lorenz, a Republican, was most recently elected in 2015 and his term runs through 2019. He also works for the Meyer Unkovic Scott law firm in Pittsburgh and is the vice president of the Murrysville City Council.
The image features an American flag with the phrase “You can vote at home comfortably online!” in big lettering. It then instructs voters to type “Hillary” with the hashtag #PresidentialElection to vote online on November 8. The bottom left corner features a similar but inaccurate logo resembling the Democrats’ election motto of “Change That Matters.”
Big problem here: Pennsylvanians can’t vote online. For that matter, neither can voters in any state.
Lorenz responded to Billy Penn’s inquiries after the initial publishing of this story, saying it was “abundantly clear” that the post was meant to be a joke on a private Facebook page. He added that after one of his friends on Facebook screenshotted the post and asked him about it on Saturday, he deleted it.
“My friends understood the spirit which was intended,” he said. “This was clearly a joke. It’s a farce. It’s not exactly the only joke or farce going around on Facebook this election.”
Lorenz also said that on his initial post, “virtually everybody understood that it was a joke,” save for one person who commented asking if it was real. Lorenz said he responded to that person, saying “in no uncertain terms that the only way that somebody could vote is to either go to the polls on Election Day or to vote by absentee ballot.”
It is illegal for elected officials to knowingly share misinformation when it comes to elections. Billy Penn has learned the matter will be referred to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
“Governor Wolf believes discouraging anyone from having their vote legitimately counted – whether through intimidation, suppression or deception – is absolutely wrong and unacceptable,” Gov. Tom Wolf spokesperson Jeffrey Sheridan said in a statement. “He believes any attempts to disrupt the electoral process should be investigated and prosecuted.”
A similar meme being circulated features a photo of Clinton from a rally and in big letters at the top states, “Did you know? Pennsylvania now has online voting?” In a similar font to what Clinton uses in campaign ads, the meme explains how critical it is to get out the vote and defeat Donald Trump and instructs voters to vote online by typing “Hillary” with the #PresidentialElection hashtag.
However, while you can *register* to vote online (and that window closed for the general election last week), Pennsylvania residents cannot vote online.
PA Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said the state hadn’t heard of the image circulating. She said she has had calls about “early voting,” but that option is not available in Pennsylvania either.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of anything like that,” Murren said. “I think most Pennsylvania voters are aware that Pennsylvania doesn’t have online voting.”
Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt’s office confirmed it hadn’t seen the meme yet and emphasized online voting was not an option.
Some election watchers who are Clinton supporters called the meme “election-rigging” on social media. Most of the calls of “election-rigging” have so far come from Trump’s side, as the GOP candidate has implied the Pennsylvania election could be “stolen” from him in cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Trump’s concerns about election-rigging in Philadelphia stem from the 2012 election when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won zero votes in 59 voting divisions in Philadelphia.
However, the claims about election-rigging in the city have been widely debunked. City officials, including the Philadelphia GOP executive director, have said the elections process in Philadelphia is kosher.