Senate Action on Ensuring Fair Elections

Since Election Day, I have:

  • Called for a comprehensive audit of the 2020 election. House Resolution 1100 requested that the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) conduct an audit. The audit request was brought before the LBFC Executive Officers, where each legislative caucus has one representative. The only vote in support of the audit was the Senate Republican representative. The House and Senate Democratic representative voted ‘no’ and the House Republican representative did not attend the meeting.
  • Called for a public hearing and planned on attending a hearing of Dominion Voting Systems after many concerns were brought to my attention. They canceled the night before the scheduled hearing.
  • Participated in a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing held in Gettysburg where election irregularities and alleged fraud were presented to committee members.
  • Co-sponsored a resolution disputing the 2020 General Election.
  • Signed on to letters that:
    • Requested Attorney General Shapiro appoint an independent prosecutor to review election accusations in order to prosecute violations of the election law and make recommendations to the General Assembly to close internal control failures.
    • Requested the Pennsylvania Inspector General review the Department of State’s conduct in the 2020 election to suggest improvements to the department’s internal processes and make recommendations to the General Assembly to close internal control failures.
    • Notified the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation alerting them of their ability to object to Presidential Electors as they see fit.
  • Signed on to an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania relating to mail-in ballots and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s “extra-constitutional” intervention into state election law.
  • Signed a petition calling for a legislative Special Session on Election Issues.
  • Signed on to an amicus brief in support of Texas case at the US Supreme Court relating to intervention by Sec. of State and PA Supreme Court.
  • Signed a letter to the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation urge them to object, and vote to sustain such objection, to the Electoral College votes received from Pennsylvania during the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.  
  • Signed a letter to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Kevin McCarthy urging them to dispute the certification until an investigation of the 2020 general election irregularities in PA are complete.
  • Joined with other state legislators from around the country in sending a letter to Vice President Pence urging him to postpone the January 6th counting of electoral votes giving state legislatures more time to meet, investigate, and vote as a body to certify / decertify the election.
  • Signed a letter to the US Republican Congress and Senate urging them to delay certification of the Electoral College to give the PA General Assembly time to verify the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election results.

Furthermore, I am seeking information to ascertain why the Department of State removed from their website the ability to track mail-in and absentee ballots, as well as scrubbed information related to votes counted/ballots requested/ballots received. There is at least one race in the 2020 General Election that has not been called.

I am sponsoring legislation requiring voter ID and ballots are required by 8pm election night, poll watchers can view ballots and signature verification.

At the end of the day, every voter in this Commonwealth deserves and is entitled to an election conducted with the utmost integrity and transparency. The actions leading up to the 2020 General Election by a blatantly partisan elected State Supreme Court, coupled with guidance from the Department of State that contradicted state law and our Constitution have cast major doubts on the fairness of a free and honest election.

It is for these reasons I have taken the actions I listed above as well as laying the groundwork to ensure this does not happen in this Commonwealth ever again. To have that process in doubt sets an incredibly dangerous precedent, which is why you and every one of our neighbors deserves to have this election scrutinized in public view.

For a more detailed timeline as to what the Republican Senate has done to ensure fairness and election security see below:

Beginning in the summer, the Senate Republican Caucus moved to intervene in several cases to preserve our rights to determine the time, place and manner of elections.

Those filings have been ongoing since and includes numerous filings before the Pennsylvania Courts as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

The following is a timeline of actions that we have taken to ensure that every Pennsylvania resident would have the opportunity to vote, that results would be known in a timely manner and that the nation could have confidence in the results:

August 24, 2020 – Senate introduces election reform legislation (SB 10) that contains:

  • Mail-in and absentee ballot signature verification
  • Pre-canvassing
  • Poll Watcher
  • Poll Workers
  • Providing voters with ballots earlier
  • Mail-in/absentee ballot application deadline
  • Secure ballot return locations

August 27, 2020 – Governor outlines election reform bill that mirrors our legislation.

September 2, 2020 – House passes 2626 which is very similar to the bill proposed by the Senate. Governor Wolf vows to veto the bill. Senate passage of HB 2626 without an agreement for signature from the Governor would leave us without a vehicle that would allow for quick movement of any election agreement we had hoped to achieve.

Week of September 14, 2020 – Negotiations are nearing completion on an election reform bill that will pass House, Senate and be signed by the Governor. Possible votes could have occurred during session week of September 21.

September 17, 2020 – The PA Supreme Court (PASC) rules on election reform lawsuits. Senate Republican leaders issue a statement in response: PA Supreme Court ruling undermines election security. The ruling derails all negotiations for an agreed-to election reform bill. The PASC rules:

  1. Drop Boxes were permitted because the Election Code allowed returns of ballots to “the county board of election,” which is permitted under the Code to operate out of its office and other locations it may choose – which could include utilizing drop boxes if it so chooses.
  2. Deadline for Return of Absentee/Mail-in Ballots –
    1. All ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by the Board of Elections by 5 pm on the Friday following the election would be counted,
    2. Ballots postmarked after Election Day would not count regardless of when they are received;
    3. Any ballot received by 5 pm on Friday following the election would count even if it did not have a postmark as long as there was no other indication that the ballot had been submitted to the postal service for delivery after Election Day (i.e., if the ballot was dated after Election Day by the voter).
  3. Curing Defects in the Absentee and Mail-in Ballots failure to submit a ballot in the required secrecy envelope or with a completed declaration would invalidate the ballot, as the Election Code did not provide for a process that the ballot could be cured; any such notice and cure process would need to be legislated.

September 19, 2020 – PA Supreme Court removes Green Party candidate from the ballot

  • Commonwealth Court Judge ruled Green Party Candidate could remain on ballot. Supreme Court overturned that decision.
  • PASC ruled 5-2 (Saylor and Mundy in the minority) that the Green Party did not strictly follow procedures for getting on Pennsylvania’s ballot. The court ruled that the law requires an original copy of the affidavit to be submitted with the signature paperwork. The candidate had faxed his paperwork.
  • Dissenting opinion, said it might be possible to allow the Green Party to fix it retroactively.
  • Democrats have long gone to court to keep Green Party candidates off the ballot, worried that they will siphon otherwise liberal voters in close contests.
  • Biden is currently up by 45,686 votes in PA. In 2016, the Green Party candidate received 49,941.
  • In the down ballot races, Green Party candidates received the following votes:
    • Attorney General – 68,460
    • Auditor General – 76,072
    • Treasurer – 79,389

September 22, 2020 – Senate Republicans filed with PASC for a stay of their September 17 decision on the extension of the deadline for the receipt of ballots. This was a required step before we could file with SCOTUS.

September 28, 2020 – Senate Republicans filed with SCOTUS for a stay of the PASC decision on the extension of the deadline for the receipt of ballots. We filed an appeal of that ruling at the same time.

October 10, 2020 – A federal judge in Western District Court dismisses Trump campaign lawsuit seeking to block drop boxes, require signatures on ballots, require matching signatures, and non-resident poll watchers.

October 17, 2020 – After being denied intervention by PA Supreme Court in signature matching case for which they accepted Kings’ Bench, Senate Republicans file an amicus brief arguing PA Election Code requires signature matching.

October 23, 2020 – Senator Corman issues a statement in response to a PASC decision on signature verification: Supreme Court issues decision based on Boockvar’s interpretation that signatures required on mail-in ballots are meaningless.

October 23, 2020 – Commonwealth Court and federal court decisions on poll watchers were issued. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court and a Judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania found that the offices and satellite offices of the County Boards of Elections were not polling locations at which poll watchers were permitted.

October 28, 2020 – SCOTUS takes up constitutional concerns raised by Senate leadership

  • SCOTUS declined to expedite a hearing but said guidance by Boockvar indicated that late-arriving ballots would be segregated meaning our Constitutional concerns could still be addressed after the election.
  • Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas indicated there was a ‘strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution’ and they may hear this case after the election.  https://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/20-542.pdf

November 2, 2020: The Secretary of the Commonwealth, Kathy Boockvar, issued an email late in the evening to County boards with conflicting and confusing guidance on ballot curing. The email suggested that County boards could contact voters to notify them that their ballot had been rejected so that they could go to the polls on Election Day to vote by provisional ballot. The PASC had previously found that the failure to submit a ballot in the required secrecy envelope or with a completed declaration would invalidate the ballot, as the Election Code did not provide for a process that the ballot could be cured; any such notice and cure process would need to be legislated.

November 3, 2020 – Senate Republican leadership issues a statement calling for Boockvar’s immediate resignation.

November 3, 2020 – General Election Day.

November 4, 2020 – Corman news conference outlines litany of election concerns, reiterates call for Boockvar resignation

November 6, 2020 – Corman, Cutler news conference on preserving the integrity of PA Election results

November 6, 2020 – Corman voices support for Speaker Cutler’s call for an audit of election results prior to certification.

November 6/7, 2020 – SCOTUS issues a decision saying it was not aware of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s original guidance, which had an ‘important bearing on the question whether to order special treatment of the ballots in question had been modified.’ Senator Corman issues a statement on how this decision underscores concerns about Boockvar’s constantly changing guidance.  https://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/alito-order.pdf

November 12, 2020 – Senate Republicans filed an amicus brief in support of a Trump campaign filing in Middle District Court. The Trump campaign case says that some counties (Democratic leaning) allowed voters to “cure” ballots that were going to be disqualified while other counties (Republican leaning) did not allow it. The basis of the filing is that “curing” is not permitted under Pennsylvania law. Judge Brann ultimately dismissed the case with prejudice on November 21, 2020. 

December 3, 2020 – In response to the distrust that grew out of the 2020 general election, Senate and House Republican leaders announced plans to restore confidence in the state’s election system and begin the process of making meaningful reforms. Review will include the most pressing issues we found over the last 3 weeks of investigation including the security of voting and manner in which votes are counted; Secretary of the Commonwealth’s management of the 2020 General Election; and impact of the state’s Judiciary on the 2020 General Election.

December 7, 2020 – Senate Republicans refuse to defend Act 77 and its mail-in balloting provisions before the U.S. Supreme Court (Kelly/Parnell case) because Secretary Boockvar used the PA Supreme Court to legislate, rewrite, and manipulate the law to gain political advantage. Blatantly partisan actions undermined the integrity and confidence in our election. 

December 10, 2020 – Senate Republicans filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the case filed by officials in Texas. The brief took no position on the merits but reiterated that the General Assembly has the authority to set the time, place, and manner of elections and the PASC and Secretary of State have usurped that authority. 

January 20, 2021 – Senators Michele Brooks (R-50), Doug Mastriano (R-33), and Scott Hutchinson (R-21) introduce legislation that would require the PA Department of State to submit a report to the General Assembly regarding how certain complaints relating to the November 3, 2020 general election were investigated.

February 10, 2021 – Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) introduces legislation that would remedy a current issue within our election law regarding a voter’s permanent absentee voter status.

March 10, 2021 – I introduce legislation that would reform Pennsylvania’s absentee and mail-in ballot voting system to help ensure the integrity of our election process in the future given the concerns raised during the 2020 Presidential Election.

March 11, 2021 – The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform holds its first hearing on best practices of election integrity and security from other states. 

March 15, 2021 – I introduce legislation that would apply the voter ID requirement to each and every election and includes both photo and non-photo options on the list of acceptable forms of ID.

March 15, 2021 – Senator John Gordner (R-27) introduces legislation that would move up the date of our Presidential primary election in the Commonwealth.  Under existing law, the primary takes place on the fourth Tuesday of April.  In most Presidential elections, the outcome is largely decided before our voters have a chance to cast their vote. 

March 22, 2021 – The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform holds its second hearing on state and local insight on the administration of elections in Pennsylvania. 

April 1, 2021 – Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) introduces legislation to ensure clarity and security for mail-in and absentee ballots to restore voter confidence in our election process.

April 6, 2021 – Senator Mensch (R-24) introduces legislation requiring the Auditor General to perform an audit of ballots canvassed in the 2020 General Election.

April 14, 2021 – Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) introduces legislation requiring the Auditor General to perform a risk-limiting audit of ballots canvassed in the 2020 General Election. In the past, Auditor Generals have attempted to perform similar election audits without the cooperation of the Department of State, as they’ve refused to share critical information necessary for the Auditor General to perform a thorough audit.

April 16, 2021 – Senator Mastriano (R-33) introduces legislation to create flexibility for poll watchers and allow them to perform their duties on Election Day. 

April 19, 2021 – The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform holds its third hearing on insight on the administration of elections in Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties.  

May 6, 2021 – Senator Michele Brooks (R-50) introduces legislation that would direct a hotline and a website be set up within the Office of the Auditor General where Pennsylvanians can report election fraud allegations as well as questionable practices contrary to the Pennsylvania Election Code.

May 21, 2021 – To address the procedural issues voters experienced in the two most recent elections since no-excuse mail-in ballots were introduced in Pennsylvania, Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) circulated a cosponsor memo for his legislation that would suspend the use of no-excuse mail-in ballots until spring 2023 or until elected leaders make necessary adjustments to Act 77 of 2019. 

June 11, 2021 – The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform issues its final report on its findings and accompanying legislative recommendations to improve the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections.

July 10, 2021 – Senator Corman issues a statement responding to the Department of State’s directive that orders counties not to allow for a review of electronic voting systems.

August 20, 2021 –Senator Corman appoints Senator Cris Dush (R-25) as chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee to get results the people of Pennsylvania can believe in.

August 23, 2021 – Senator Corman issues a statement supporting a careful, thoughtful investigation as necessary to restoring faith in our elections.

September 2, 2021 – The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee creates a special webpage for Pennsylvania residents to submit sworn testimony regarding problems they have personally experienced with the state’s election system.

September 9, 2021 – The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee holds a public hearing on the Investigation of the 2020 General Election and the 2021 Primary Election. The Department of State refuses to participate.

September 15, 2021 – The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee votes to issue subpoenas for a variety of different materials from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

September 17, 2021 – Senator Argall (R-29) and Senator Street (D-3) introduce legislation to implement some of the recommendations from the final report issued by the Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform. The bill (Senate Bill 878) will address pre-canvassing, tracking, and counting mail-in ballots; application deadlines; eliminating the permanent mail-in list; real-time reporting of deceased voters; 24/7 drop box surveillance; and training election workers.

September 21, 2021 – Four updates to Pennsylvania’s election code were passed out of the Senate State Government Committee with strong bipartisan support:

  1. Senate Bill 428, sponsored by Senator John Gordner (R-27), moves up the date of the Presidential Primary Election; 
  2. Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne (R-16), requires the electronic filing of campaign finance reports; 
  3. Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Scott Martin (R-13), changes the number of write-in votes to qualify as a winner of an election; and 
  4. Senate Bill 551, sponsored by Senator Scott Martin (R-13), would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to remove the requirement for a separate ballot for judicial elections. These bills now move to the full Senate for their consideration.

September 23, 2021 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public hearing to receive comments on Senate Bill 878, legislation to implement recommendations of the Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform.

October 1, 2021 – Senator Cris Dush (R-25) issues statement assuring Pennsylvanians that their personal information will be kept safe and secure and condemns political scare tactics that just get in the way of good government.

October 5, 2021 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public hearing to receive comments from the Pennsylvania Department of State on Senate Bill 878, legislation to implement recommendations of the Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform.

October 22, 2021 – Commonwealth Court filing reaffirms the Legislature’s authority to conduct an election investigation.

November 19, 2021 – Envoy Sage selected as vendor to conduct impartial investigation of Pennsylvania’s elections.

January 10, 2022 – Commonwealth Court upholds the authority of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee to issue a subpoena for voter records as part of its investigation of recent elections.

January 14, 2022 – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court halts the collection of data from the machines by Envoy Sage, working in connection with the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, just hours after a lower court ruled the process could move forward.

January 20, 2022 – Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) introduces legislation to clean up voter registration records by requiring regular audits and prohibiting government entities from withholding the data necessary to conduct those audits.

February 9, 2022 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public hearing on bipartisan election reform.

March 11, 2022 – Senate Republicans file a petition to compel the Department of State to comply with the subpoena issued by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee for information relevant to the committee’s election investigation.

March 29, 2022 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public hearing on Senate Bill 878, legislation that would implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Election Integrity & Reform.

March 31, 2022 – The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee hosts a public hearing on ballot drop boxes.

April 5, 2022 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public hearing on two election integrity proposals:

  • Senate Bill 982 sponsored by Senators Lisa Baker (R-20) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) that would prohibit outside groups from contributing to election operations, and
  • House Bill 2044 sponsored by Representatives Eric Nelson (R-57), Clint Owlett (R-68), and James Struzzi (R-62) that would ensure equitable distribution and transparency of private funding grants for Pennsylvania’s elections. 

April 6, 2022 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public meeting to vote to advance the following election integrity legislation:

  • Senate Bill 1018 sponsored by Senator Aument that would help to reconcile any errors, duplicate files, or irregularities within Pennsylvania’s voter registration records.
  • House Bill 1614 sponsored by Representative Warner that would increase the required amount of ballots on Election Day in an effort to prevent ballot shortages.

April 8, 2022 –  Senate Republicans announce bill to eliminate drop boxes citing evidence of misuse.

April 11, 2022 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public meeting to advance three election integrity bills:

  • Senate Bill 982 to require elections to be funded only through lawful appropriations by Federal, State or local governments, and imposing a penalty. 
  • Senate Bill 1200 to require that persons delivering mail or absentee ballots may only deliver such ballots at their county’s primary office, located in the county seat. 
  • House Bill 2044 to prohibit the Secretary of the Commonwealth and county election officials from accepting private donations or contributions for the operation of elections.

April 13, 2022 – The Senate votes to ban unsecured ballot drop boxes (Senate Bill 1200) and private funding of election operations (Senate Bill 982).

April 21, 2022 – The Senate State Government Committee hosts a public hearing on Senate Bill 690 (legislation to allow open primaries in Pennsylvania) and issues regarding the Special Election in the 116th Legislative District.