Political skullduggery in Pennsylvania

'Thy soul is by vile fear assailed, which oft so overcasts a man, that he recoils from noblest resolution, like a beast at some false semblance in the twilight of gloom.'   —The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (14th century)

Andrea Widburg, in her American Thinker article "Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf and the caring face of totalitarianism," highlighted Gov. Tom Wolf's COVID-19 total lockdown of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, only now partially easing. 

Wolf's approach has been the same as governors in other Democrat-run states: promise a short lockdown to "flatten the curve" to protect the health care system, and then shift the goalposts to a seemingly permanent lockdown, or semi-lockdown, status until the virus is gone or there is a vaccine.

There is a political subtext to Wolf's grand design, and something über-fishy about the statistics being reported from Philadelphia, and fishier still, the draconian decisions upon which they are based.

Take a look:

Because of the COVID-19 emergency, Pennsylvania's primary scheduled for April 28 was pushed back to June 2.  In Pennsylvania's primaries, registered voters pick only from the candidates of their respective parties.  With mounting cases and reported deaths, the date change seemed plausibly rational and didn't raise much dissent.  That was then.

Wolf also divided Pennsylvania into three colors: red, yellow, and green.  COVID cases, per county, were highest at red and lowest at green.  The colors were based on number of cases reported, deaths, and hospital beds available.  While the closings were targeted in early March, by March 16, Wolf ordered all schools closed.  By April 1, regardless of county color allocation, all estimated that 12.9 million Pennsylvanians were under strict stay at home mandate.  If not deemed an essential worker or business, the mandate ordered one to venture from home only for groceries, drugs, and takeout food orders.

On May 8, 2020, the first lifting of the stay-at-home mandate was accorded to those counties that passed a new calculus.  Once a county had an average of fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents for 14 days, it could shift from the red total lockdown to yellow.  It didn't matter if that county was already coded yellow or green; it still shifted from the omnipresent red to yellow.  Even in yellow, the restrictions are severe.  Fitness clubs, movies, and casinos remained closed, as did restaurants and bars; restaurants that could offered take-out via home delivery or curbside pick-up.  Essential businesses, such as Costco, Walmart, and Target, that were permitted to remain open throughout, still had to maintain employee and customer social distancing and heavy daily cleaning.  Additional counties have slowly been permitted to open in code yellow mode, but not Philadelphia or the populous suburbs surrounding the city.

Philadelphia and its adjacent suburbs currently trapped in the red zone, as noted above, are scheduled to open on June 4, two days after the primary election.  Originally envisioned as a normal election day, it is currently a quagmire.  Previously, all voting was done in person; absentee voting was permitted only for illness, disability, or absence from the state on the date of the election.  Moreover, the application process itself was laborious, and tight control of absentee ballots was maintained at the end of election night at each polling location.  For this primary, any registered voter who applies for an absentee ballot will purportedly receive one, due to COVID-19 and the stay at home mandate for those residents still in code red counties.  While these residents can vote in person, the vast majority are fearful.  Too many reports of unfulfilled absentee ballot requests have been reported.  Additionally, voting in person, while still permitted, has become more confusing and difficult, especially for the elderly.  All traditional polling places have been shuttered and clumped together in public school locations.  Admittedly, a few polling locations already existed in schools; for most voters, though, these physical changes create more distant, unfamiliar, and less accessible locations. 

More bothersome is the issue of changed poll workers, who in Pennsylvania are elected and generally known to their constituents.   Most are elderly, retired, and professional.  They have been trained and brook no nonsense.  With the consolidation of polling places, the elected poll workers not afraid to work and a host of unknown substitutes have been reassigned.  Added to this cauldron of confusion is a staggering number of absentee ballots already received.  How will they be handled, tallied, and controlled?  Thankfully, there are few contested races in the primary, making the stakes low.

But is this a precedent-setting scenario for the presidential election in November, and a naked attempt at election theft?  Surely not.

During the past weekend, attorneys were stunned by the news from the president judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that all criminal and civil trials were postponed until Sept. 8, 2020.  Since the courts have been closed since March 16, that indicates a lack of a functioning judicial system for almost six months.  What happened to respect for the Constitution?  The Sixth (VI) Amendment to the Constitution reads in pertinent part:  'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district shall have been committed…'.   Undoubtedly, former President Obama, in his risible concern for the preservation of our Constitution should bite his tongue.  In addition to Pennsylvania's Democrat Governor, the mayor of Philadelphia is a Democrat, as is the District Attorney. 

The mandates and closing are suspect because the COVID-19 statistics don't add up.  As of May18, 2020, Pennsylvania had a total confirmed COVID-19 cases of 63,056 and 4,505 deaths.  Of these, Philadelphia County had 16,340 reported cases and 1,080 deaths.  In Philadelphia's surrounding counties, Montgomery County reported 6,012 cases with 566 deaths, Delaware County reported 5,689 cases with 456 deaths, Bucks County reported 4,516 cases with 417 deaths, and Chester reported 2,153 cases with 227 deaths.  Philadelphia reported approximately 1/3 of the deaths were at nursing/assisted living homes, while the suburbs reported those deaths at approximately 65-70%.  On May 17, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, a Republican, issued a report based on statistics he had received from the Governor's State Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, M.D.  She reported that as of May 15, 2020, there were 4,342 deaths and that 2,991 of those had occurred at nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living facilities, equaling 69% of all deaths.

What gives?  Why is Philadelphia's death rate ratio to confirmed cases so much smaller than that of its neighboring suburbs? Similarly, why are the assisted living facility deaths so much lower?  And, if both sets of statistics are accurate, why have the Philadelphia courts slammed shut their doors?

Lynne Lechter is a practicing attorney and litigator in Philadelphia, and an elected member of the Pennsylvania State Republican Committee.

Image credit: Jokullmusic via Wikipedia, public domain.

Correction: primary date corrected to June 2not 4

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