Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania expressed concern this week about a possible strain on the integrity of elections in the state. In an Oct. 25 letter to acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman, 15 Republican legislators noted that over 240,000 ballots have been sent out to voters whose identities have not been verified.
Unverified ballots and ID mismatches
According to Verity Vote, a group committed to analyzing issues of election integrity, Pennsylvania not only allows people to vote without IDs but allows people to register to vote without verification of identity or residency.
Verity Vote noted that a 2018 directive from the Pennsylvania Department of State "instructed counties to register applicants even if the applicant provided invalid identification or no identification." This directive has proved problematic.
In their letter to Chapman, which relies in part on information included in Verity Vote's Monday report, Republican lawmakers wrote, "Due to the 2018 Directive from your office instructing counties to register voters without verification of identity, the need to verify the identity and eligibility of mail and absentee ballot applicants is even more critical to the integrity of our elections."
The lawmakers noted that in a September 14 state government committee hearing, Deputy Secretary Jonathan Marks testified that counties are responsible for ID verification prior to counting a ballot. However, the Pennsylvania Department of State was said to have later notified counties that ID verification takes place before a ballot is sent to an applicant.
As a result of this conflicting information about verification responsibility, "conscientious election workers could unknowingly accept and count ballots for which no verification had ever occurred."
The lawmakers claimed that the 240,000-plus unverified ballots constitute a "staggering" amount that "must be set aside and not counted for the 2022 General Election unless the voter produces ID."
The Republicans requested that the Department of State "immediately issue a directive to all counties informing them of the requirement to set those ballots aside and not pre-canvass, canvass, or count any of them unless and until the applicant provides a valid form of identification."
It is not acceptable, the lawmakers contended, that counties "fix" non-matching identification.
Granted the possible severity of the threat to the election's integrity, the legislature must be provided "with a complete list of all the names and voter IDs for all the applications" where SSN4 identifiers provided did not match with the Social Security Administration's records.
Furthermore, they asked that the relevant guidance be corrected to reflect Marks' testimony or account for "the false information provided under oath."
'An unnecessary crisis'
Verity Vote stated that the "impact of this issue on the 2022 General Election cannot be overstated ... The ramification of this defective process is that tens of thousands of people would have to show up at a county election office to present ID to comply with the law rather than the trivial process of correcting at the time of entry."
The report accused the Department of State of creating "an unnecessary crisis by deferring verification," pushing "this responsibility onto county election officials [and] making it nearly impossibly to verify the identity of the ballot requester."
Among the consequences Verity Vote said can be expected are: the rejection of tens of thousands of ballots; the acceptance of tens of thousands of unverified ballots in contravention of the law; and litigation of this policy, potentially delaying the final results.
Just the News reported that Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project, an election integrity nonprofit, underscored how problems that impacted the 2020 presidential election are now being repeated.
"The left has refused to abide by common-sense procedures, laws, and rules that make it easy for legitimate voters to vote and difficult for fraudulent voters and people to commit fraud," said Kline.
State Rep. Frank Ryan (R), one of the 15 Republicans who wrote to Chapman, told the Daily Signal that a 2019 state audit indicated the secretary of the commonwealth's office was "uncooperative and had an unreliable system for keeping election records under its Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors system."
Ryan said, "No one is saying this determines who wins and loses ... We are just saying the database is so broken it needs to be fixed."