Over the weekend, Pennsylvania state Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lititz) told colleagues he will reintroduce a measure to clean up his state’s voter rolls.

Concern about the Keystone State’s voter records grew after Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a report in December 2019 alerting lawmakers to copious apparent errors in the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE). 

DePasquale’s staff found, for instance, that SURE contained 24,408 registrations with the same driver’s license (DL) number appearing on other registrations as well as 2,991 active voter records with information matching that written on Department of Health death notices. He observed that his department was able to make these determinations despite then-Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) — whose agency asked for the audit — not fully cooperating with the investigation. (Boockvar, who reacted to the report dismissively, resigned a year later over failure to properly advertise a ballot question on a proposed constitutional amendment.)  

“Overall, we are highly discouraged not only by management’s responses to our draft findings, but also the general negative tone of the response,” DePasquale wrote in his report. “This is particularly surprising since the [Department of State] itself requested the audit and the Department of the Auditor General (DAG) made every possible effort to provide a cooperative and constructive auditing process…. Additionally, DOS did not provide specific examples to us to prove that our analysis of the data was incorrect.”

The changes Aument proposed include technology improvements to preclude the entry of records with duplicative DL numbers as well as clearly inaccurate birth or registration dates. The bill also would require an edit check to keep county staff from approving voter-registration applications that indicate a registrant primarily lives outside of Pennsylvania. 

Aument initially responded last January with legislation January to implement the auditor general’s recommendations to correct the system, but Democrats on the Senate State Government Committee demurred. State Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), for one, said he believed federal law bars states from removing electoral registrations with matching DL numbers. Though the bill won the panel’s approval anyway, the full chamber did not vote on it. 

Aument’s policy face a tougher path to enactment now. While Republicans can probably expect unanimity from their House and Senate caucuses, they only control the latter chamber. GOP lawmakers hold a decisive majority in the Senate but outnumber Democrats by only two in the House of Representatives. (While Democrats won one more seat than their rivals in last November’s elections, one victor died before Election Day and two others retired to take higher offices.) 

Despite continued resistance from Democrats in the General Assembly, Aument insisted his legislation should receive consideration as an important step for election integrity. He argued it is all the more necessary because Boockvar’s successors, including current acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D), have shown no interest in adopting most of DePasquale’s recommendations.

“Incorporating these recommendations into law is necessary due to the reluctance of the Department of State to accept the findings in the [DePasquale] report,” the representative wrote in a memorandum urging fellow senators to cosponsor his bill.

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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 “Election Day 2022” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.