HARRISBURG - Word that a United Nations-affiliated elections monitoring team may be headed to Pennsylvania to observe Tuesday's elections set off fireworks in the Capitol, where a leading Republican urged state officials to bar the group, along with others seeking "to exercise fraudulent or corrupt influence" at the polls.
Earlier last month, the NAACP and other civil rights groups asked the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor polling places in states "most impacted by voter-restriction efforts." The OSCE works with the United Nations to ensure free elections around the world.
Among the states targeted was Pennsylvania, where a strict voter-ID law was enacted in the spring. Implementation of the law requiring state-approved ID for voting was postponed after a legal dispute that reached the state Supreme Court.
Voters will not need to show identification at the polls on Tuesday, though the state still encourages voters to take ID in preparation for future elections that will require it.
NAACP spokesman Derek Turner said he was not sure whether the OSCE, based in Poland, would dispatch a team to Pennsylvania. A spokesman for the group, which monitored U.S. presidential elections in 2004 and 2008, could not be reached on Thursday.
But one lawmaker, State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler) said he didn't think the international group had any authority to enter polling places in Pennsylvania.
"United Nations monitors have no right or jurisdiction whatsoever to intrude upon the sanctity or integrity of the commonwealth's election process," Metcalfe, lead sponsor of the voter-ID legislation, said in a letter to Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele.
Aichele's spokesman, Ron Ruman, said decisions about who gets access to polling places was up to county judges of elections.
"Counties run elections in Pennsylvania," Ruman said. "We have nothing to hide and we are proud of the elections process."
In its letter, the NAACP and other groups called the wave of voter-ID laws part of "a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans - particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities, low-income people, women, young people, persons with disabilities, and the elderly."
The letter urged the OSCE "to deploy its limited election monitors in those states where restrictions on voting had been most extensive: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin."
Metcalfe, in his letter, said the state should order the observers to stay outside polling places or, as he put it, "better yet, stay away, along with any other integrity-deficient individuals or foreign nationals who wish to exercise a fraudulent or corrupt influence on the 2012 election."
In other preelection activity:
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. turned down a request from opponents of the new law that he order the state to change its advertising on voter ID.
Simpson ruled Oct. 2 that voters would be allowed to cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election whether they had photo identification or not. The state continued to emphasize photo ID in its $5 million advertising campaign, but modified the ads to say that "voters will be asked, but not required, to show an acceptable photo ID on Election Day."
Opponents contended the ads were misleading and asked Simpson to order "corrective measures to remediate the misinformation."
The judge cited several procedural and practical issues in trying to supervise the state's advertising and denied the petition.
Gov. Corbett extended until 5 p.m. Monday the deadline for voters in 31 counties - including Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester - to submit absentee ballots.
State law specifies that absentee ballots must arrive at county election offices by 5 p.m. on Friday of the week before the general election for all voters' choices to be counted. But Corbett extended the deadline for counties that closed their election offices because of Hurricane Sandy.
Delaware County officials said they kept their offices open in spite of the storm, so absentee voters in that county still need to submit their ballots by 5 p.m. Friday for them to count fully.
Federal law sets a different deadline - the close of polling places at 8 p.m. on Election Day - for absentee votes to be counted in the presidential race.
The U.S. Postal Service said it would make its best efforts to speed delivery of any absentee ballots put into the mail. But the prospect of postal delay makes it advisable for absentee voters to hand-deliver their ballots to county election boards if possible.