HARRISBURG – With Election Day looming, Reps. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) and Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland) were joined by more than a dozen of their House colleagues in sending a letter to acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman today, insisting that she immediately issue a directive to county election officials on the proper handling of absentee and mail-in ballots.
Ryan and Keefer are members of the House State Government Committee, which has held several public hearings on election procedures and produced legislation to reform the system. The letter was prompted by Chapman’s recent directive, which contradicts testimony given under oath by deputy Secretary of State Jonathan Marks concerning the department’s policy on verifying the identity of applicants for absentee and mail-in ballots.
The letter states that at a Sept. 14, 2022, committee hearing, Marks testified that it is each county’s responsibility, not the Department of State’s (DoS), to verify voter ID before counting a ballot. He said the department uses PennDOT and the Social Security Administration’s Help America Vote Verification (HAVV) systems to check ID and Social Security numbers on applications for absentee and mail-in ballots, but he said regardless of whether the information can be verified, counties are obligated to send ballots to those who request them. This contradicts Chapman’s directive less than two weeks later, which advised counties that voter identification is to be verified before sending a ballot to an applicant.
In their letter, the lawmakers cite DoS data, as of Oct. 21, 2022, which shows about 240,000 ballots as “not verified” leading up to the Nov. 8 election. Often these unverified ballots are the result of a transposition of numbers or letters, but under law, election officials must ensure they are set aside, and the identification verified, before being counted.
“It is extremely alarming that ballots have been sent to and returned by unverified voters,” Keefer said. “This is another glaring gap in Pennsylvania’s election integrity that can be secured by simply following state and federal election laws and requiring all voters be verified before mail-in ballots are issued. Clearly more secure and robust policies must be put in place to ensure the integrity of our elections.”
Ryan, a certified public accountant, added, “The need for internal process controls such as SOC-1 and SOC-2 audits are imperative for us to ensure that our voting systems are sound.”
The letter asks the DoS to act now to ensure the integrity of the Nov. 8 election by issuing a directive to county election officials, clarifying that they are required to set aside and not pre-canvass, canvass or count ballots with non-matching identification and may not correct ballots until valid identification is presented by the voter.
The letter asks Chapman to correct her department’s guidance on whether her department or the counties bear the responsibility for ID verification on ballot applications. It further asks Chapman to provide the Legislature with a complete list of voter names and IDs for all ballot applications with incorrect PennDOT ID or Social Security numbers.
Finally, the letter insists, due to the conflicting information provided by the DoS, counties be required to certify that all non-matching ballots have been set aside and recorded by the type of identification produced by the voter to correct the ballot.
Editors: A copy of the letter is attached.