In October 2019, Senate leadership brought SB 421 (later Act 77) to the full floor for a vote. I was in my fourth month as a senator after a career of serving 30 years in the US Army.
Act 77 passed the Senate by a 35-14 vote along near party lines. Every single Republican senator voted for it, while nearly every Democrat voted against.
Democrats were against the bill for several reasons. It required all voting machines to be equipped with paper trails to ensure accountability for post-election audits. It also eliminated “straight ticket” voting. Pennsylvania had been one of a handful of states for voters to press a single button that automatically selects candidates of the same party. Numerous studies over the years have shown that straight ticket voting benefits Democrat candidates. That advantage vanished when the researchers examined voter behavior in elections after straight ticket voting had been eliminated in a respective state.
When the Senate passed Act 77, critical election security safeguards were in place to prevent mass fraud. All mail-in ballots were to be signature verified and turned in by Election Day to count. “Defective” absentee mail-in ballots were not to be counted and poll watchers were expected to be permitted to observe the counting of all mail-in ballots at every location.
However, using the pretext of COVID, Pennsylvania Democrats made their move to hijack Act 77 and transform it into something NO Republican voted for. The Democrat majority Supreme Court, Governor Wolf, and Wolf’s disgraced Secretary of State Boockvar unconstitutionally rewrote Act 77.
Let’s start with the Supreme Court. On September 17, 2020, in direct contravention of the wording of Act 77, the court extended the deadline for mailed ballots to be received from Election Day, to three days after Election Day. Then the court declared that “just for the 2020 general election,” ballots mailed without a postmark should be presumed to have been received on time. Lastly, the court mandated that mail-in ballots lacking a verified signature were to be accepted. This meant that any ballot, without a signature, without a postal mark , would be counted– even if received three days after the election. This policy making by the court opened up Pandora’s Box for uncertainty in the outcome of the election.
Not to be outdone, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar took it upon herself to join in on the hijacking of Act 77 in late October 2020. Boockvar directed certain Democrat counties to “cure” defective ballots. This allowed voting officials in those counties to correct ballots so that they could be counted. GOP counties did not receive such guidance.
Boockvar dishonestly told the Supreme Court that mail-in ballots received after the November 3 election would be set aside, pending an appeal to nullify ballots collected in the days after the election. However, the secretary then told counties to tabulate the ballots as quickly as possible, co-mingling ballots received by Election Day with those received after. To this date, we don’t know how many late arriving ballots ended up being tabulated in the final results.
It’s worth mentioning that I was one of only FOUR Senators to vote “no” on Secretary Boockvar’s confirmation back in November 2019. During her confirmation hearing, she could not answer my basic questions on how she would secure the upcoming 2020 election from fraud.
Would the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election in PA be different if Boockvar’s nomination had been rejected by the Senate? Considering her actions in the lead up to the November 2020, I think that answer is yes.
In light of how the Democrats successfully hijacked Act 77, I have made numerous attempts to expose and correct the irregularities of the 2020 election. Since November 2020, I’ve been the loudest, and at times a solitary voice, for a full forensic audit of the 2020 election results. I visited the Arizona audit in June and called for a similar audit in Pennsylvania. In July, as chair of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, I sent letters to three counties (York, Tioga, and Philadelphia) requesting all ballots, envelopes, and voting machines pertaining to the 2020 election. I scheduled multiple meetings to move forward with the issuance of subpoenas in August before being thwarted by the Pro Tempore of the Senate and subsequently removed as chair of the committee. Regardless of this, I continue to be a tireless voice in the Senate for a full forensic audit that includes precinct canvassing to verify voters.
On the legislative front, it’s clear that Act 77 must be repealed and I have introduced legislation to do just that. I drafted and introduced SB 884, a constitutional amendment which eliminates “no-excuse” mail in voting and mandates signature verification.
I’m also the co-author of SB 735, which would amend the Constitution to require all voters to show a form of identification when casting a ballot. That bill passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the House.
These bills cannot be vetoed by Governor Wolf and would appear on a ballot for the people to decide on.
The hijacked version of Act 77 is not what I voted for in October 2019. It’s time we address this problem by passing legislation to secure our elections now. The millions of voters in our Commonwealth who no longer believe in the integrity of our elections deserve nothing less.