Pennsylvania Senate Panel Votes to Implement Changes to Improve Voter Records

Ryan Aument

A committee of the GOP-run Pennsylvania Senate voted Wednesday to change the state’s voter-records system as recommended by a Democratic former state auditor general.

The bill, sponsored by State Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lititz), passed the State Government Committee 7-4, with all Republicans and no Democrats backing the measure. 

Momentum to improve the accuracy and security of the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) heightened after Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) issued a report in December 2019 documenting various errors in the system. DePasquale’s department discovered 24,408 cases in which the same driver’s license (DL) number appeared on multiple voter records. It also determined that 2,991 voter records contained information matching that found on state Department of Health deceased files.

“As part of ongoing efforts to better ensure integrity of Pennsylvania’s election system, I introduced Senate Bill 1018 to help reconcile any errors, duplicate files or irregularities within Pennsylvania’s voter-registration records,” the senator told the committee. “According to [the] independent, third-party audit, which was conducted by a Democratic auditor general prior to the 2020 election, there are legitimate issues and irregularities within Pennsylvania’s election system that must be fixed. I’m confident that this bill will help us accomplish that.”

The auditor general suggested that weaknesses in SURE’s administration and the voter-application process led to those apparent inaccuracies and others. After reviewing the report, then-Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) dismissed her fellow Democrat’s insistence that the upkeep of the voter registry was inadequate, despite the fact that Boockvar’s agency requested the audit in the first place. DePasquale has complained that the department was often uncooperative as his office carried out its investigation.

In that light, Aument’s measure would prohibit the Department of State, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and counties from withholding information during probes by the auditor general’s office. Such audits of the voter-registration system – a new system replacing SURE – would be required to be conducted every four years.

“Ensuring transparency and accountability from the agency responsible for administering our elections is absolutely essential if Pennsylvanians are to trust our electoral process,” he said. 

State Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) told colleagues he opposes the legislation because he believes federal election law prohibits the commonwealth from removing voter records in cases of matching DL numbers. 

“There are challenges with this and I think it needs significant work if we’re going to move forward with it,” he said.

Aument’s legislation now awaits consideration by the full Senate. 

Also on Wednesday, the committee sent to the full chamber a bill sponsored by Chairman David Argall (R-Mahanoy City) to limit courts’ role in congressional redistricting. Argall’s reform would stipulate that any congressional-district map designed by a court or via a court’s direction will stay in effect only for the election cycle during which the jurist or jurists created the plan. 

The committee chair announced he was drafting such legislation on February 24, one day after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court imposed a Democrat-favored map for purposes of congressional redistricting. His bill passed along party lines, 7-4. 

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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 Senator Ryan Aument.



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