EDITORIAL: Pa. steps up under pressure

York Dispatch editorial board

As expected, last week’s electoral drama featured Pennsylvania as a prominent player. With the race between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden too close to call, all eyes were on the Keystone State — and a handful of others — as hours turned into days while all-decisive mail-in ballots were tallied.

There were protests. There were threats. There were legal challenges. But through it all, Pennsylvania — its state leaders, poll workers, police officers and citizens — stepped up, remained calm and comported themselves with professionalism and dignity.

In short, Pennsylvania did itself proud.

That the state delivered the decisive electoral votes in what may well have been the most important election in generations was icing on the cake.

The long-awaited crescendo to this year’s unprecedented presidential campaign originated from vote-counting centers in Philadelphia around noon on Saturday. Challenger Biden’s share of Pennsylvania’s vote crept past a 0.5 percent advantage which, coupled with the dwindling number of yet-to-be-counted ballots, delivered to Biden the state and, with it, the election.

Arguably not since the Liberty Bell has such a consequential clamor rung out from the City of Brotherly Love.

Things easily could have gone differently.

For example, police quickly subdued a pair of armed Virginia men who arrived outside a Philadelphia voting center last week because they’d heard false allegations that “fake ballots” were being counted.

And as in many cities in states that went into vote-counting overtime (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina among them), demonstrators took to the streets.

In Pittsburgh, county sheriffs and city police separated clashing protesters without incident. In Philadelphia, Biden backers defused tensions by turning a potential standoff with Trump supporters into an impromptu dance party. (Instead of images of Pennsylvania protesters hollering nose-to-nose, social media was treated to memes of street parties featuring twerking mailboxes and Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty.)

With order more or less secured in the streets, state leaders did their best to reassure the nation that the vote-counting was, likewise, orderly and secure.

Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar all acquitted themselves admirably in interviews with the national media. They presented an image of calm competence while deftly dismissing allegations that anything other than a thorough and professional vote-counting was underway. (Two of them even went viral: Shapiro when his son crashed an on-air interview and Fetterman for being the plain-spoken breath of political fresh air Pennsylvanians have long known him to be.)

The state has also successfully navigated five lawsuits (and counting) brought by the Trump campaign, the most serious of which urges ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day be discarded. (State law allows ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received up to three days later.)

Those lawsuits reflect the one faction that has brought dishonor on the state: Republicans who continue to peddle fictions designed to question and/or discredit election results.

Count state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, Senate President-Pro-Tempore Joe Scarnati and a number of their GOP colleagues among this sorry lot. “The integrity of this election is called into question,” Corman charged on the Fox program “American Newsroom.” His evidence? “I don’t have evidence of any misdoing,” he said. Ho boy!

Conspicuously not among these conspiracists: Sen. Pat Toomey, who spoke out earlier in the week against Trump’s false allegations that the election was rigged. Whether his recent decision not to seek reelection in two years affected Toomey’s decision to chide the president, it was nonetheless welcome.

As was the state’s poise and purposefulness all week, frankly.

Under a national spotlight and a heap of pressure, state officials didn’t allow threats, intimidation or repeated lawsuits to derail their focus on fair and complete ballot-counting.

And by Saturday afternoon, the results tallied, Americans not only in Philadelphia, PA, but across the nation were dancing in the streets.