OP-ED from Senator Doug Mastriano

COVID-19 and the Governor have hijacked Act 77 of 2019 into an unconstitutional law, which has triggered the lawsuit against the Wolf Administration from Texas.

Act 77, in its original form, was the comprehensive voting reform package passed by the General Assembly in 2019.  The bill passed with unanimous Republican support and almost unanimous democrat opposition. 

There was no major red flag or danger to our republic and that is evidenced by every single Republican in the Senate supported it, even those of us who are routinely a “no” vote on anything that could undermine our people’s freedoms.  And the near unanimous Democrat opposition to this bill highlights that in its original form, there was no insidious risk.

Unfortunately, the PA Supreme Court, Secretary Boockvar, and the governor had other ambitions.

Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretense, the Wolf Administration, together with the left-wing activists on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, threw Act 77 into disarray.

Simply stated, Governor Wolf, State Department Secretary Kathy Boockvar and the state Supreme Court have been making up rules on the fly and unconstitutionally rewrote the law, which compromised our election.

I served our country for three decades in the United States Army, physically protecting our liberties, including the right to vote.  Nothing is more sacred.  Every veteran took an oath and that oath is sacred.  To see what political hacks and partisans have done to our state election this year in unacceptable.

After seeing so much overreach by the judicial and executive branches pertaining to our election laws, I decided to take action and join the lawsuit led by U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-16). Congressman Kelly is seeking to upend the presidential election results, and the case has merit.  Additionally, I, together with 23 colleagues in the senate have joined the Texas case against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania due to the compromise done to our election system by the PA Supreme Court and the Wolf Administration. 

After all, the General Assembly is responsible for enacting election code, not Wolf, or the PA Supreme Court.  And certainly not State Department Secretary Kathy Boockvar.

All three parties have fundamentally altered the original meaning of key provisions of Act 77.

The state Supreme Court and Secretary Boockvar fundamentally altered and unconstitutionally rewrote the original meaning of key provisions of Act 77.

Existing law was clear and specific:

● All mail-in ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day; 

● Officials at polling locations must authenticate the signatures of voters;

● County Boards of Elections are able to conduct pre-canvassing of absentee and mail-in     ballots after 8 a.m. on Election Day;

● Defective absentee and mail-in ballots shall not be counted; and

● “Watchers” selected by candidates and political parties are permitted to observe the process of canvassing absentee and mail-in ballots.

Where did it all go wrong?

The corruption of our election began with Governor Wolf during the Covid crisis.  Like a classis liberal, he did not want this “crisis” to go to waste and used it to undermine Act 77 and voting in general in PA.  Using Federal CARES money, Wolf forced mail in voting upon people with a proactive propaganda campaign to perpetuate it. Likewise, he used fear mongering to insinuate that polling stations would be closed or undermanned due to the risk of the virus.

But, with the coup de main less than seven weeks before Election Day, the state Supreme Court unilaterally – and in direct contravention of the wording of Act 77 – extended the deadline for mailed ballots to be received from Election Day, to three days after the Election Day.

Similarly, the court declared that ballots mailed without a postmark should be presumed to have been received timed.

Also, the court mandated that mail-in ballots lacking a verified signature be accepted.

Since when is this democracy?

When did this become acceptable?

It gets worse.

On the eve of Election Day, the State Department encouraged some counties – but not all! – to notify party and candidate representatives of mail-in voters whose ballots contained disqualifying defects, thereby enabling voters to cure said defects.

This was unprecedented as it had never happened before.

Even though there is a lot of misinformation about Act 77, the code is very specific to the manner in which defects of mail-in ballots are to be treated, and it provides no authority for county officials to contact campaigns, or other political operatives, to affect the cure of such defects.

Actions taken by the state Supreme Court and Secretary Boockvar in the 2020 general election were so fraught with inconsistencies, improprieties and irregularities that the results for the office of President of the United States cannot be determined.

Because of these issues, I am a plaintiff in a case in the Commonwealth Court against Governor Tom Wolf, et al., to seek relief.

Further, along with numerous colleagues that signed onto the lawsuit, I believe that a special prosecutor must be appointed to ensure that this conduct is dealt with legally, and all nefarious behavior condemned.

There is nothing more important than electoral integrity.

Our votes matter.

I will not rest until Pennsylvanians have a renewed trust in their government and a belief that their vote counts.

Going forward, election reforms are a necessity during the 2021-2022 legislative sessions, Voter ID must be part of that conversation, and mail-in ballot security is an essential component of those discussions.

We cannot have a repeat of 2020.  This is why we have joined the cases going before the U.S. Supreme Court… to correct the damage done to voting in our state at the hands of Governor Wolf and the state Supreme Court.  

Senator Doug Mastriano represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes all of Adams County, and portions of Franklin, Cumberland and York counties.

 

CONTACTS: spitzer@pasen.gov