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January 05, 2023

Al Schmidt, a former Republican city commissioner, tapped as next Pa. secretary of state

Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, lauded Schmidt for standing up against efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election

Al Schmidt, the former Philadelphia city commissioner who rebuffed Donald Trump's claims of voter fraud in 2020, has been appointed to oversee Pennsylvania's elections. 

Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, nominated Schmidt, a Republican, to serve as his secretary of state on Thursday. Shapiro will begin his term Jan. 17.

Schmidt spent 10 years as a city commissioner before taking the helm at the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, in January 2022. He gained national attention in November 2020, when he drew the ire of Trump for defending the legitimacy of the city's vote-counting process. 

Schmidt's efforts have earned him the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation's second highest civilian award. President Joe Biden will present it to him at the White House on Friday – the second anniversary of the deadly U.S. Capitol riots.

Schmidt made it clear that despite differing party affiliations, he and Shapiro seek to protect and strengthen democracy. 

"My job now is to advance the governor's agenda and make sure that every eligible voter can register to vote, and every registered voter is able to cast their vote and have their vote counted at the end of the day," Schmidt told Politico.

The state Senate must confirm Schmidt, which requires approval from two-thirds of the chamber. But he can serve in an acting role in the meantime. 

"Al Schmidt has a proven track record of defending our democracy, protecting voting rights, and standing up to extremism — even in the face of grave threats," Shapiro tweeted

The next step for Schmidt is a vote by the Senate, and he needs approval from two-thirds of the legislative body.

As secretary of state, Schmidt will oversee elections, collect campaign finance information, approve election equipment and certify election results. It's similar to his former role as city commissioner. 

As a commissioner, Schmidt served as the designated Republican on the three-member board. The role typically does not garner much attention, but Schmidt found himself in the spotlight during the last presidential election.  

Trump attacked Schmidt on Twitter for "ignoring a mountain of corruption and dishonesty" in Philadelphia. Schmidt later testified to the U.S. Senate's rule committee that he and a fellow city commissioner received death threats intended to coerce them into not certifying the city's election results. 

"After the President tweeted about me, my wife and I received threats that named our children, included my home address and images of my home, and (threatened) to put their 'heads on spikes,'" he testified

Schmidt also appeared before the Jan. 6 committee, testifying about these threats and Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud in Philadelphia. They included the Trump campaign's accusation that 8,000 dead people voted

"Not only was there not evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, there wasn't evidence of eight," Schmidt testified. "We took seriously every case that was referred to us. No matter how fantastical or how absurd, we took every one of them seriously, even these."