In December 2019, a report by Democratic then-Auditor General Eugene DePasquale detailed a host of problems with that system, known as the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE). Within that registry, which is maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of State, DePasquale and his staff discovered 24,408 cases of the same driver’s license (DL) number being indicated on multiple voter records. They also found 2,991 voter records containing information matching that on state Department of Health deceased files.
The auditor general determined that those and other potential inaccuracies resulted from weaknesses in both the upkeep of SURE and the process of applying to vote. Once presented with these findings, Pennsylvania’s then-Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) disputed that the problems with her agency ran as deep as DePasquale suggested. (Boockvar would resign 13 months later for failing to properly publicize an upcoming ballot question concerning a proposed constitutional amendment.)
“DOS does not seem to understand that a primary objective of our audit was to assess the accuracy of records maintained in the SURE system,” DePasquale wrote in his final report. “Our audit procedures disclosed internal control weaknesses related to input and maintenance of voter records, and our data analysis revealed examples of potential inaccuracies, all of which should be properly investigated by forwarding the information to the counties for further review. [My office is] concerned that DOS, and therefore the counties, will not utilize the information provided to them in the audit because it is assuming that the data in the SURE system is accurate. ”
DePasquale recommended numerous changes to ensure maintenance of proper voter documents, improvements Aument seeks to implement through his legislation. If enacted, a new voter-information system would replace SURE and the Department of State would be instructed to work with counties to guarantee accurate records.
All 14 of the measure’s cosponsors so far are Republicans, underscoring a partisan rift on election integrity that has predated the 2020 presidential contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden but that has only worsened in its fraught aftermath. Aument lamented the political divisions that have characterized discussions of election reform and urged colleagues to embrace the changes he is urging.
“While the mainstream media would have us believe that every attempt to improve election integrity is part of an effort to cast doubt on the 2020 General Election outcome, this could not be further from the truth,” he said in a statement. “There are legitimate issues and irregularities within Pennsylvania’s election system that must be fixed so we can be confident in any election results produced by that system. Despite opponents claims that nothing is wrong with our elections, independent third-party audits have shown this is false, and I would be doing a disservice to my constituents if I did not act to correct these problems.”
The senator recalled DePasquale’s report asserting that Boockvar’s department, along with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and some county election offices, failed to fully cooperate with the auditor general’s data-gathering effort. For that reason, Aument’s bill requires these agencies to be forthcoming with information the auditor general’s office requests to perform a review of the voter registry, a process the legislation stipulates must take place every four years.
“It is entirely unacceptable for a government agency to withhold information needed to conduct an independent, impartial review of our elections,” Aument said. “Ensuring transparency and accountability from the agency responsible for administering our elections will help Pennsylvanians regain trust in results and in the process.”
His bill awaits consideration by the Senate State Government Committee.
The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee is meanwhile gearing up to perform a review of recent elections and has requested documentation on all 9 million registered voters in Pennsylvania. The Iowa-based firm Envoy Sage, LLC will be tasked with reviewing those records and other information pertaining to Pennsylvania’s 2020 and 2021 elections.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ryan Aument” by Ryan Aument. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Senate Floor” by Bestbudbrian. CC BY-SA 3.0.