What if I said that an audit had found major deficiencies and security threats in Pennsylvania’s statewide voter registry?
More likely than not, this claim would erupt into a battle between “Stop the Steal” activists intent on denying last year’s election results and “Big Lie” critics who thrive on attacking President Trump’s election claims.
But what if I said this audit was completed well before the 2020 election and was conducted not by a Republican but by a Democrat.
From 2018-2019, Democrat former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale performed an audit of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE). Among his findings, released in late 2019, were “tens of thousands of potential duplicate and inaccurate voter records,“ “weaknesses in the … maintenance of voter records in SURE,” and “potential areas of improvement related to computer security.”
What’s more, the audit found that the Wolf administration had refused to grant access to “critical documents” needed for the audit. The result was that DePasquale’s office “was unable to determine with any degree of reasonable assurance that the SURE system is secure and that Pennsylvania voter registration records are complete, accurate, and in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and related guidelines.”
Indeed, when DePasquale released his audit report, he noted the Wolf administration’s obstinance, writing that his office was “quite surprised” that Gov. Wolf’s Department of State “disagree[d] with many of our findings” and “attempt[ed] to discredit our findings.
The takeaway is clear. Or, at least, it should be: Concerns over certain aspects of our election system are bipartisan. So, too, can be the solutions.
Earlier this year, House State Government Committee Chairman Rep. Seth Grove of York County introduced the Voting Rights Protection Act. Among the many reforms, Grove offered were improvements to the SURE system, widely supported voter ID enhancements, and allowances for counties to begin pre-canvassing (or opening) mail-in ballots prior to Election Day to prevent unnecessary delays in tallying votes.
Gov. Wolf swiftly vetoed the bill after (by his own admission) “prejudging” the voter ID requirement before even reading it because it was offered by Republicans.
While this was unfortunate, it wasn’t surprising. Wolf has long rejected ideas coming from others and has instead preferred a Lone Wolf approach to governing.
But there’s a silver lining.
Over the past several years, Wolf has repeatedly changed his mind on key issues—vetoing bills only to later sign legislation containing similar measures. So it should hardly be surprising that shortly after rejecting the Voting Rights Protection Act, Wolf changed his tune on voter ID and indicated an openness toward implementing this security measure.
This gives hope that instead of trying to discredit concerns over the security of the SURE system, Wolf may move to embrace recommendations to improve it.
Thankfully, Rep. Grove has reintroduced legislation that tackles both these needs and more. His Voting Rights Protection Act 2.0 would implement several reforms targeting voter access and election security.
Among the proposed changes are regular audits of our SURE system to guarantee confidence in our voter registry, a commonsense voter identification provision that has already been shown to enjoy broad support from Pennsylvanians, and county-requested allowances to pre-canvass mail-in ballots before Election Day.
Beyond this, the Voting Rights Protection Act incorporates Democrat-sponsored amendments to “improve poll worker retention efforts,” “modernize delivery of ballots” to counties, and more.
It’s unfortunate that political animus has overshadowed civil debate when it comes to election reform. But the truth is that calls for many reforms have been longstanding and bipartisan.
By incorporating improvements spanning the political aisle, the Voting Rights Protection Act offers Pennsylvania the opportunity to make much-needed changes that will protect voter access and better secure election integrity in the years and decades to come.
Rob Shearer owns, with his wife and business partner, several companies focused on supply chain logistics. He is a trustee of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs.