A Black attorney with a record of voting-rights advocacy was just named to the top elections post in Pennsylvania, a state where the GOP-controlled legislature might stir up lots of trouble during next year’s critical midterm elections.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced that Leigh Chapman will take over as acting PA Secretary of the Commonwealth, on Jan. 8, giving her control over a department that already had leadership challenges and most importantly, is in charge of running the state’s elections. Leigh, a Howard Law-educated attorney, is currently executive director of Deliver My Vote, a D.C.-based nonprofit “dedicated to increasing voter participation and turnout by making voting easier and more accessible—at home or at the polls,” according to her LinkedIn profile.
Leigh also previously worked as a policy director in the same office, but her new leadership role carries enormous weight inside the state and nationally.
PA was one of the states where huge Democratic voter turnout in the Philadelphia area and in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, delivered the final blow to Donald Trump’s re-election effort. That has made the state and its voting processes a target for Republicans. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that Chapman’s new gig is “tasking her with overseeing a midterm election cycle that will bring national scrutiny to Pennsylvania while the state fends off continued GOP attacks stemming from the 2020 presidential election.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette characterized her new job this way:
The secretary, among other things, oversees the state’s elections process, and Ms. Bookvar and Ms. Degraffenreid [Chapman’s predecessors] have been frequent targets of lawmakers — those loyal to former President Donald Trump — who have criticized the 2020 election and sought to overturn the results.
PA Republicans have already drawn up a new Congressional voting map that Wolf, a Democrat, says “would consistently deliver a disproportionate number of seats to Republican candidates when compared with Pennsylvania voters’ preferences. This appears to be the result of intentional line-drawing choices that favor Republican candidates,” according to the Inquirer.
And the state’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, is also in court fighting a subpoena issued by Republicans in the state senate that seeks personal data about millions of the state’s voters.