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Pennsylvania launches new election threats task force

By Kaanita Iyer, CNN

(CNN) — Pennsylvania is launching a new task force dedicated to election threats, marking a key initiative in the battleground state ahead of the 2024 election.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro on Thursday announced the task force, saying it will “safeguard the rights of every citizen.”

“Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American democracy, and we are working to continue defending Pennsylvanians’ fundamental freedoms and ensure we have a free, fair, safe, secure election this November,” Shapiro said in a statement provided to CNN.

The effort to combat election misinformation, cases of voter intimidation and other threats to the electoral process comes after Pennsylvania, a key battleground state, was one of the targets of former President Donald Trump following the 2020 election. Trump and his allies attempted to delegitimize the Keystone State’s results by alleging fraud, requesting audits and attacking election officials.

The task force will focus on getting “accurate, trusted election information” to voters, according to the statement. It is comprised of federal, state and local officials, including representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security, state attorney general’s office, local election directors and state police.

The force will be led by Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt, the state’s top elections official. He acknowledged in the statement that the task force follows recent incidents of “bad-faith actors” attempting to spread election lies and “to delegitimize our safe, secure, and accurate elections.”

Following the 2020 election, Trump and his allies falsely declared a premature victory in Pennsylvania and then sought to prevent officials from completing their count of mail-in ballots. Shapiro, then the state attorney general, and Schmidt, who was then the lone Republican on Philadelphia’s elections board, were leading opponents of Trump’s efforts.

As the state looks to safeguard the upcoming primary election in April, Schmidt is also tasked with addressing another consequence of the widespread 2020 election lies: the rise in threats against election officials.

In Pennsylvania, nearly 70 county election directors or assistant directors in at least 40 of the state’s 67 counties have left their jobs since January 2020, CNN previously reported. Schmidt has warned that the exodus of experienced staff will only fuel more conspiracy theories in the months ahead.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten and Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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