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State Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland Township (center), speaks during the Cambria-Somerset Tea Party meeting at the Masonic Temple in downtown Johnstown Thursday, April 8, 2021. He's flanked by state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette County (left), and state Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale.

Bill Ragley, chairman of the Cambria-Somerset Tea Party, said he wanted members and attendees of the group’s meeting on Thursday to hear from elected officials about their opinions on voting in Pennsylvania.

“Free, fair and secure,” he said. “We are focused on making that happen.”

State Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland Township, state Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale, and state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, all attended and spoke to the crowd at the Masonic Temple in Johnstown.

Johnstown resident and retired Army Lt. Craig Minnick was the moderator for the event.

Each panelist took a turn at the beginning of the event to share some thoughts on voting laws – specifically, on Act 77 of 2019, which provided no excuse mail-in voting, a 50-day period for request and submission of mail-in or absentee ballots, extended deadlines for those methods, a later registration window and permanent mail-in or absentee list.

Langerholc led off the panelists by stating that the reason everyone was there was because they have a problem with Pennsylvania’s election system.

He said Act 77 has been misinterpreted, noting that there were no previsions for ballot drop-boxes, pre-canvassing of ballots or a grace period to count votes after the election.

“I believe that the best way to vote is you go in to the polls in person,” Stefano said.

He added that, if a voter can’t go to their designated voting location, then the bar needs to be higher for alternative methods.

A key point addressed during the gathering was the need to be sure that the person voting is who they say they are.

Langerholc advocated for voter ID laws, signature verification and removal of deceased individuals from the ballot roll.

Toward the end of the meeting, the floor was opened to the attendees to ask questions. Inquiries ranged from why Act 77 was needed – which Rigby answered by stating that its intention was to eliminate straight-party voting – to whether there were any instances of voter fraud in the state – Stefano mentioned that there were possibly three cases, but the group was unsure overall – and the safety of mail-in voting.

Langerholc assured the crowd that the state government is “moving in the direction to get things done” and added that he’s trying to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

Bob Ritter, a Ferndale resident and Tea Party member, said he attended the event because he’s concerned about voter laws in the state.

“I really think they were changed unconstitutionally,” he said.

Ritter attended the meeting to see what the situation was at this point and where it was going.

“We hope, wherever Act 77 goes, we can rest assured our vote counts and the potential for fraud is minimal,” Ragley said.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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