A former senior counsel to President Donald Trump says the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race is the “most important in the country” because it could set the tone for how election integrity measures are applied across the United States.
Trump-backed Doug Mastriano, a Republican state senator and vocal proponent of election integrity, is facing off against state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a closely-watched governor’s race in November.
If elected, Mastriano would oversee improvements in the state’s electoral system that will trigger a ripple effect across the rest of the country, according to the GOP nominee’s newly-appointed senior counsel Jenna Ellis.
“I am working with Senator Mastriano to make sure that the elections are fair in Pennsylvania. And that is for 2022,” Ellis told The Epoch Times on June 15. “And then, when he gets elected in 2022, he can appoint a Secretary of State, as a sitting governor in Pennsylvania, that will ensure election integrity and administer elections according to state law.”
Ellis announced her new role in Mastriano’s campaign on Twitter on June 13 by sharing an appointment statement from the Republican nominee on the same day.
“The talent, experience, and legal expertise Jenna brings will be an important factor in helping us defeat Josh Shapiro and the extreme Democrat agenda in November,” Mastriano said in the statement.
‘Most Important in the Country’
Ellis said that Mastriano’s goal is simple: “administering elections according to state law.”
“Pennsylvania is the Keystone State, and as goes Pennsylvania, so will go the rest of the country in terms of making sure that we can get back to following state law in the administration of elections,” she said.
“So, importantly, for every state, the executive branch and the Secretary of State that administers the elections are required to follow state law.”
During the 2020 presidential election, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Pennsylvania Commonwealth—along with the states of Wisconsin, Georgia, and Michigan—for allegedly not following state laws in administering its elections. Paxton’s lawsuit alleged the commonwealth certified the election while the state had more ballots than registered voters, which makes the certification invalid under Pennsylvania law. The Supreme Court in December 2020 denied Paxton’s motion, citing a lack of standing.
Mastriano made headlines when he hosted a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing in Gettysburg in November 2020, featuring testimonies of former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and elections workers on alleged election fraud. He continued to investigate the 2020 election until the state Senate GOP leadership removed him from the task without explanation.
“I’m a state senator, and I represent a quarter-million people, and when things happen in elections, and my constituents cry out to me with concerns, I take it seriously,” Mastriano told The Epoch Times in June.
The nominee said he will clear the state’s voter rolls and have every voter re-register.
“The goal is to start fresh,” said Mastriano. “This is not going to be popular on the left or right because it’s going to be inconvenient. Everyone that wants to vote is going to have to go back to re-register. I think that’s the best way to start restoring confidence in voting in our state.”
Ellis criticized a recent Supreme Court ruling on a Pennsylvania ballot certification case, saying that it showed how some judges in the highest court are becoming “activists” and involved in policymaking on election integrity measures.
The Supreme Court’s June 9 ruling, which vacated an injunction by Justice Alito, allowed administrators in a local judicial election to resume counting ballots that omitted a handwritten date on their envelope—a decision that will apply to all elections in the state.
The majority ruling from the highest court affirmed a decision by a three-panel judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which cited the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 in saying that government officials should not deny citizens the right to vote “because of an error or omission” that are “not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under state law to vote.”
Pennsylvania state law requires ballots received on time but missing a handwritten date on the envelope to be rejected. The Pennsylvania Republican Party takes the position that undated mail-in ballots should not be counted.
“This is another example of the judicial branch actually violating the law and becoming activists. They are violating state law because the judicial branch is supposed to simply hold everyone to the law,” Ellis said.
She said Justice Alito, Justice Thomas, and Justice Gorsuch, who dissented from the ruling, were “absolutely correct,” adding that the case, despite its subject being about a local judicial race, raises “broader issues about how voting rights and protections will apply when the voters or the ballots fail to meet state law requirements.”
“When the state has established these voting regulations, it is not for the Supreme Court to determine policy, but to make sure that they are holding the administrators of elections … to state law,” Ellis said.
“They may not have liked it. But that’s not their job. Their job is not to set policy, their job is to arbitrate, according to the U.S. Constitution of the supreme rule of law, and every law that they are required to enforce,” she added.
Despite the ongoing controversies surrounding election integrity, the attorney hoped that Americans would exercise their constitutional right to participate in elections.
“Make sure that you’re getting out and voting in November,” Ellis said. “Are there election integrity concerns? Yes. Are there discouraging headlines every day? Yes. But in the United States of America, we have such a great privilege of being able to select and prefer our leaders.”
“Get out and vote and make sure that they are participating in selecting and choosing our leaders who will preserve and protect our rights that come from God our Creator.”
Beth Brelje and Matthew Vadum contributed to this report.