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Jul. 11—WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Department of State this week issued the following statement about some state legislators pursuing a sham review of the November 2020 general election results:

“The Department of State encourages counties to refuse to participate in any sham review of past elections that would require counties to violate the trust of their voters and ignore their statutory duty to protect the chain of custody of their ballots and voting equipment.

“The Department stands ready to assist counties in upholding their statutory duty to protect the security and integrity of their election machines and systems.

“Further, we will direct the counties that, if they turn over voting machines or scanners, they should be prepared to replace that brand-new, expensive equipment before any future elections. When the Secretary certifies voting systems, she certifies that they can be secured from outside intrusion. Such a ‘forensic’ exercise as that described by the senator would nullify that assurance.

“Additionally, the federal government has designated voting equipment as protected infrastructure and, as such, there should be no expectation that anyone without the necessary security clearance would be afforded the kind of access requested here.

“We already have seen systems compromised in Fulton County and in the state of Arizona. In both cases, the politically motivated reviews turned up absolutely no evidence of any fraud or discrepancies. Those partisan exercises did, however, prove to be very costly for local officials and taxpayers when election administrators were forced to lease or purchase replacement equipment.

“Pennsylvania counties, despite a convergence of difficult circumstances, ran a free, fair and accurate election in 2020. The majority of Pennsylvanians — and Americans — are satisfied with that truth.

“And yet there continue to be similar moves to conduct reviews in other states, led by a very small group of bad actors, who are not trying to allay election mistrust. They are feeding it for their own purposes, and in the process impugning the integrity of the county and local election officials we rely on to conduct elections, and leaving them to find millions to pay for the new equipment which would be needed if they comply.

“We will oppose any attempt to disrupt our electoral process and undermine our elections at every step and with every legal avenue available.”

Attorney General comments

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also weighed in on the issue.

“Although two legal audits have already been completed in Pennsylvania, Senator Mastriano is now requesting a laundry list of confidential and privileged information from three Pennsylvania counties in continued efforts to pay homage to former President Trump and further spread misinformation about our elections.

“These counties should refuse to participate in this partisan fishing expedition. This “audit” could risk decertifying the counties’ voting machines, costing county taxpayers’ millions of dollars. Right now this information is being requested voluntarily, but should subpoenas be issued, you can expect our office to do everything to protect the Commonwealth, its voters and the free, fair election that was held in Pennsylvania.”

Gov. Wolf comments

On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf said it is a “disgrace to democracy” that a Republican state lawmaker is trying to launch what he calls a “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election, similar to what is happening in Arizona.

Wolf, a Democrat, said on Twitter that the “sham election audit” being attempted by Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano is also a “profound waste of time and taxpayer money,” in addition to being a disgrace.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Wolf’s administration issued a directive to counties, warning that they should not provide access for third parties to copy or examine state-certified electronic voting systems and election management systems or components.

Wolf’s administration told counties that it would decertify any election equipment that is subject to any such third-party access, rendering it useless in an election, and that the state would not reimburse a county for the cost to replace the equipment.

State rebrands APPRISE;

program is now PA MEDI

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) announced that as of July 1, the PA State Health Insurance Assistance Program, formerly known as APPRISE, has now been renamed Pennsylvania Medicare Education and Decision Insight, or PA MEDI.

Pennsylvania’s Medicare beneficiaries will receive the same services under the same program, just under a new name.

PDA’s Education & Outreach Office (EOO) embarked on a rebranding process to improve public awareness of the program and of the valuable services it provides to Pennsylvania’s Medicare-eligible individuals, their families and caregivers to assist them in making informed health insurance decisions that optimize cost-savings and access to health care and benefits.

PA MEDI provides free, confidential, objective, and easy-to-understand information about Medicare Advantage Plans, prescription drug plans, and Medicare Supplement plans, Medicare appeals, and allows Medicare beneficiaries to compare plans and costs to determine what best meets their needs.

“The new brand presents a unique opportunity for the program to grow, innovate and connect with beneficiaries and organizations; tap into new populations; and to better accommodate the needs of beneficiaries,” said Susan Neff, PA MEDI director. “The new brand also supports the vision to be the known and trusted community resource for unbiased Medicare information. We welcome beneficiaries to call the PA MEDI Helpline at 1-800-783-7067 for Medicare-related questions.”

The program’s services are provided through Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging by a network of almost 800 trained counselors in the commonwealth, many of whom are volunteers. Many PA MEDI volunteer counselors started off as Medicare beneficiaries with questions or concerns about their coverage who, after receiving assistance through PA MEDI, wanted to learn more about how they could share that knowledge with others.

PA MEDI volunteer counselors receive free training about Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, Medicare prescription drug coverage, appeals, fraud, abuse, and more.

To learn more about PA MEDI or becoming a volunteer, click here or to find an open enrollment event in your area call the PA MEDI Helpline at 1-800-783-7067, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

DHS to reopen County

Assistance Offices July 12

The Department of Human Services this week announced that all County Assistance Offices (CAO) will resume in-person operations for clients on July 12, 2021.

On-site CAO services will provide clients with access to DHS’ caseworkers and services if they cannot access online services or need assistance that cannot be accessed through the COMPASS website, the myCOMPASS PA mobile app, or by calling the Customer Service Center.

“No one should be forgoing services that help them live well and meet essential needs, so whether you visit a CAO in-person or access services via our website and mobile app, DHS is here to help you. I want to thank everyone for their patience while our CAOs were closed to in-person services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead. “Because our clients were able to access services online, we had the opportunity to keep the public and our staff safe from COVID-19 while still providing access to health care, food, and other essential needs to those who needed them. However, our CAOs are still a vital local resource for Pennsylvanians who need assistance, so we are pleased to be able to resume in-person services on July 12.”

The CAOs will be following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health to ensure the health and safety of clients and staff. While CAOs will not require masks to be worn inside at all times, visitors who are not vaccinated or who prefer to wear masks are encouraged to do so.

DHS’ online applications and resources will remain accessible at www.compass.pa.state.us and the myCOMPASS PA mobile app, and clients are still encouraged to use online and mobile services whenever possible. Clients can apply for benefits, make updates to their case, and submit paperwork virtually.

For more information about assistance programs administered through DHS, visit www.dhs.pa.gov or www.compass.state.pa.us.