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Al Schmidt passes initial confirmation to be named Pa. secretary of the commonwealth

Al Schmidt, former city commissioner of Philadelphia, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, on June 13, 2022. Schmidt, a former Philadelphia election official who has told of enduring death threats whipped up by Donald Trump for defending the city's 2020 vote-counting against the former president's election lies, will be nominated for the top election administration post in Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro's administration.
Susan Walsh
Al Schmidt, former city commissioner of Philadelphia, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt’s confirmation is heading to the Senate floor.

A week after his confirmation meeting was abruptly canceled, Schmidt was confirmed Monday by the Senate Small Government Committee with only one opposing vote.

Throughout his hearing, Schmidt was pressed on the security of voting machines to ensure public trust.

“There’s testing that takes place prior to Election Day that the public is permitted to attend, where the public and members of the Board of Elections go through and test their machines to ensure that the votes are scanned,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt was also pressed on changes to voting machines and who would make the judgment on if the machine requires another round of testing.

Voting machines require certification before they can be used, but minor changes do not require a new inspection if they don’t affect the machine’s accuracy, efficiency or capacity, or its compliance with the requirements, according to the Pennsylvania State code.

“The Department of State would make that assessment if the modification to the voting system did in any way impact the items that you described, if they, you know, change the size of the wheels on the voting machine that’s rolled out that would not require recertification,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt, however, has faith in the guardrails in place.

“We’re confident that at the federal and state level, we have those safeguards in place, but election integrity is not something that just ends on one day. It is an ongoing, constant process of making sure that the systems are safeguarded,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt was confirmed by everyone on the committee except State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, who supported Donald Trump’s 2020 election-fraud lie by signing a letter urging members of Congress to delay certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes going to Joe Biden. Mastriano was identified as a key figure in the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s investigation because of his actions to help overturn accurate election results e.

Schmidt will need to be confirmed by the Rules & Executive Nominations Committee and the full Senate by Wednesday or he will be confirmed as Secretary of the Commonwealth by default.

Ben Wasserstein