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The lone Republican on the board that oversees Philadelphia elections is not letting an attack on his integrity by incumbent President Donald Trump pull him from the task at hand: counting the city’s votes.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt appeared on CNN Wednesday morning. Speaking from the floor of Philly’s vote-counting operation, the elections official confirmed he had not seen any fraud, despite Trump and his supporters’ false claims to the contrary.
“We just had the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia,” Schmidt told anchor John Berman.
“People should be mindful that there are bad actors who are lying to them, and they need to turn to people that they trust … and not nonsense included in lawsuits or anything else like that.”
The Trump campaign has targeted Philadelphia vote counting operations in several lawsuits that election experts say have no merit and little chance of succeeding.
Shortly after the CNN segment aired, the incumbent president tweeted, “A guy named Al Schmidt … is being used big time by the Fake News Media.” Asked to respond to Trump’s allegations, which included calling him a “Republican in name only,” Schmidt brushed it off.
“The clock is ticking on certifying the election, and we can’t let anyone — even the president — distract from that,” Schmidt told WHYY News Wednesday afternoon.
Schmidt has been overseeing elections in Philly since 2011, when he was elected to the City Commissioners board, which by law must be bipartisan. Two Democrats, Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir, currently serve alongside him. Their charge is to administer voter registration and conduct elections that align with federal and state voter laws.
It’s often a low-profile job, though Schmidt, who previously worked in federal government, seems to relish it. In past years he’s brought attention to his role by tweeting out colorful graphics with stats about registration and turnout.
This year, with all the attention on Philadelphia as the biggest city in a pivotal swing state, he’s found himself in the national crosshairs.
“I have seen the most fantastical things on social media, making completely ridiculous allegations that have no basis in fact at all,” Schmidt said on CNN. He mentioned a list going around that purported to show dead Philadelphians whose names had been used to vote — and said that during a break, he and his staff looked into each one. They debunked every claim.
“One thing I can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies,” he said, “and to consume information that is not true.”
In an interview broadcast Sunday, Schmidt said on CBS 60 Minutes that his office had received death threats in the form of calls “reminding us that this is what the Second Amendment is for.”
Law enforcement did arrest two armed men who’d traveled from Virginia to allegedly target the Philly ballot counting site at the Pa. Convention Center last week. Text messages produced during their initial court appearance indicated they were planning to “straighten” out the vote-counting operation in some way, the Inquirer reported.
Counties across Pennsylvania faced a challenge this year, which is the state’s first with no-excuse mail voting. In Philadelphia, which received the most mail ballots in the commonwealth, the City Commissioners used a $10 million dollar grant to help things run more efficiently, including purchasing new equipment to speed the count.
The office also set up a livestream of Philly’s vote-counting operation, which at times garnered more than 10,000 viewers.
Though unofficial results from the city have been reported to the Pa. Secretary of State, Schmidt said, workers are still concentrating hard to finish their official count in time for Pennsylvania’s election certification deadline of Nov. 23.
“It’s really important for us at the Pa. Convention Center … to remain focused on our jobs,” Schmidt told CNN. “On a personal level, I’m sure it’s not easy for any of us here. The people here work night and day to do our job to count those votes.”