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November 09, 2020

Philly election officials received death threats over ballot counting, city commissioner says

'60 Minutes' profiles the city’s vote-tallying efforts in the wake of President Trump's unsubstantiated accusations

Voting Election 2020
philly city commissioners voting.jpg Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

The Trump campaign has made unsubstantiated claims about Philadelphia's vote-counting process. City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a fellow Republican, calls the accusations 'deranged.'

City Commissioner Al Schmidt told "60 Minutes" that Philadelphia election officials received death threats last week, including calls "reminding us that this is what the Second Amendment is for." 

Schmidt and others received the threats as election workers spent days counting hundreds of thousands of mail-in and provisional ballots at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. 

Democratic challenger Joe Biden was deemed the winner of the presidential race Saturday after Philadelphia reported a batch of votes late Saturday morning, handing him Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes. 

President Donald Trump and his campaign repeatedly have made unsubstantiated claims accusing Philadelphia of counting illegal, fraudulent votes. He has made similar accusations of Pennsylvania and other battleground states. 

"From the inside looking out, it feels all very deranged," said Schmidt, a Republican. "At the end of the day, we are counting eligible votes cast by voters. The controversy surrounding it is something I don't understand. It's people making accusations that we wouldn't count those votes, or people are adding fraudulent votes, or just coming up with all sorts of crazy stuff."

Schmidt, one of three commissioners tasked with overseeing Philadelphia's elections, pushed back at the president's remarks. 

"In the birthplace of our republic, counting votes is not a bad thing," Schmidt said. "Counting votes cast on or before Election Day by eligible voters is not corruption. It is not cheating. It is democracy.

"There really should not be a disagreement, regardless of party affiliation, when we’re talking about counting votes cast on or before Election Day by eligible voters. It’s not a very controversial thing, or at least shouldn’t be."

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who won re-election, joined Schmidt in decrying Trump's claims.

"Donald Trump can say whatever he wants," Shapiro told the CBS weekly news magazine show. "But we just had an election, an election that was secure, an election where the votes were tallied, and a proper winner will be certified based not on the words of President Trump, but on the votes of the American people."

The Trump campaign sued Pennsylvania last week to stop the counting of mail-in and provisional ballots and to provide poll watchers more access to the process. While a federal judge granted the campaign a small victory by allowing its monitors to move from 10 feet to 6 feet away, vote counting continued. 

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat who represents the 181st District in North Philly, accused the Trump campaign of voter suppression.

"[The Trump campaign] is trying to steal an election by not having every vote count," Kenyatta said. "And in an election, if you think you're gonna win, you don’t try to stop the counting. You want every vote counted. We're going to count every single vote. And all they can do is what they've done. To try and throw sand in the gears, to try to make the process as slow as possible, and then fill that time of delay with conspiracy theories and nonsense."

"60 Minutes" episodes can be watched in their entirety on CBS News’ website, as well as on the news magazine's YouTube page.

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