Lawyer and Secretary of State Behind Pennsylvania Changed Voting Rules

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

Two Pennsylvania Republican state assemblymen said Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar needs to resign over her partisan and illegal directives concerning the 2020 election.  Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Monday: 

Twice in the last two days, the Secretary of State has fundamentally altered the manner in which Pennsylvania’s election is being conducted.”  

Peter Blanchard/Patch

Specifically, Secretary of State Boockvar agreed in a communication to the U.S. Supreme Court that any ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day would be “segregated” from other ballots. On Nov. 1, she reneged on this agreement by instructing certain Pennsylvanian counties to count late ballots “as soon as possible upon receipt.”

The assemblymen point out that the use of voting machines in some counties means that now “it’s not possible to both segregate and canvass ballots as directed.” Boockvar’s instructions make it likely that timely votes will now get mixed up with late ineligible votesvotes that were supposed to be kept separate for the purpose of litigation before the United States Supreme Court.

Boockvar’s instructions to “cure” votes

Scarnati and Corman drew attention to emails Boockvar’s office circulated to specific counties the day before the election, asking that information about people whose mail-in or absentee ballot contained an error be sent to Democrat candidates and party representatives, allowing party representatives to reach out to that person and have their ballot “cured.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly

A lawsuit brought by Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania, along with five plaintiffs was filed Tuesday against Secretary of State Boockvar for changing the voting guidelines so close to Election Day. 

They cite the email sent to county election directors which statesCounty boards of elections should provide information to party and candidate representatives during the pre-canvass that identifies the voters whose ballots have been rejected” so they could be offered a provisional ballot.

Some county election boards then provided party operatives with voters’ names, addresses and even email addresses, along with explanations of their ballot defects, said Thomas Breth, the lawyer who filed the suit.

Breth said that before Tuesday, some election boards themselves were alerting voters that their ballots had defects, and allowing the voters to fix them. Some election officials were even weighing ballots to determine if they contained the required secrecy envelopes inside, he said.

Reaching out to voters to cure their defective ballots is not allowed in the state’s election code, Breth said. Changing the code would require a state assembly fix.

What the Court says

In fact, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had already ruled “that is an issue for the legislature to decide, not for the courts or for the secretary of state’s department.”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Writing the majority opinion for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Democrat-appointed Justice Max Baer said: 

The extent that a voter is at risk for having his or her ballot rejected due to minor errors … we agree that the decision to provide a ‘notice and opportunity to cure’ procedure to alleviate that risk is one best suited for the legislature.

At least eight counties refused to accept the suggestion that they make voters aware of rejected ballots because doing so violates the state’s election code, according to the lawsuit. An evidentiary hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

Secretary Boockvar responds

Boockvar fired back at these accusations and legal challenges in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette saying Scarnati and Corman “don’t like the late counting of ballots because they don’t like anything that allows more eligible voters to be enfranchised.” 

State Senate majority leader Corman said he now believes the Pennsylvania State Department has been “weaponized” and influenced by partisan efforts to sway the vote.

Did Marc Elias’ strategy work?

The name that always comes up when looking into these “new rules” is lawyer Marc Elias. Back in September, he was part of efforts in 19 states to secure what he calls the “four pillars” of vote-by-mail: provide prepaid envelopes so voters can return ballots for free; counting mail-in ballots as long as they’re postmarked on or before Election Day; make it harder for election officials to toss out ballots if the signature doesn’t match the one on file; and allow local groups to gather absentee ballots on behalf of voters.  “Lack of community organizations assisting” with the collection and delivery of ballots, he argued, effectively serves as a “disadvantage” to minority voters.

The conservative vote-monitoring organization True the Vote which aims to stop voter fraud, was also suspicious. President Catherine Engelbrecht said Elias feeds this narrative to “hundreds of other groups that then take that and continue to push it.” She added, he pursued voting rule changes very strategically in areas where he knew Democrats would need “some ebb and flow.”

Carol King received a first-class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on U.S. public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at the University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University. She further completed an MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC.

Twitter: @CarolKing561

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