Republicans Call for Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State to Resign

Republicans Call for Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State to Resign
An election worker is seen as mail-in ballots are counted in Chester County, Penn., Nov. 4, 2020. (Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters)
Harry Lee

Kathy Boockvar, the Democrat-appointed Secretary of State of Pennsylvania, was called to resign on Election Day by two Republican state Senate leaders over her last-minute changes to how ballots are handled in the state.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Jake Corman, both Republican, called for Boockvar’s resignation in a statement on Nov. 3.

“Twice in the last two days, the Secretary of State has fundamentally altered the manner in which Pennsylvania’s election is being conducted,“ the senators said. ”The constantly changing guidance she has delivered to counties not only directly contradicts the Election Code language she is sworn to uphold, but also conflicts her own litigation statements and decisions of both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.”

It went on to explain the two fundamental changes Boockvar had made before election day.

On Nov. 1, Boockvar directed counties to canvass as soon as possible ballots received after 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, which Republicans argued left open the possibility that timely votes would be commingled with votes received after 8 p.m. on election day, despite these votes remaining the subject of litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In some counties, it is not possible to both segregate and canvass ballots as directed,” Scarnati and Corman said.

Boockvar had ordered local elections officials to keep the late-arriving ballots separate after the count. Her office had released guidance on Oct. 28 that ballots received after 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 would be segregated and that none of these ballots were to be canvassed unless further direction received (pdf).

Boockvar also changed the rules on Nov. 2, directing counties to provide information to help voters whose mail-in or absentee ballots were incorrectly completed so those voters could vote on a provisional ballot.

The last-minute directive again added confusion and inconsistency to the counting of the ballots across counties, Corman argued, with only some of the state’s counties acting of the direction to contact voters for a chance to amend their ballot.

Corman held a press conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 4 saying that the call for resignation was not driven by partisanship but to ensure that the people of Pennsylvania can have confidence in the election process.

Corman criticized both the nature and the timing of Boockvar’s behavior.

“This has been the case for decades. This isn’t new. If you vote in absentees, if you didn’t do it correctly, it doesn’t count,” Corman told reporters during the press conference.

“Follow the law,” Corman stressed.

“To the extent that a voter is at risk for having his or her ballot rejected due to minor errors made in contravention of those requirements, we agree that the decision to provide a ‘notice and opportunity to cure’ procedure to alleviate that risk is one best suited for the Legislature,” the Republican statement said, citing the majority opinion written by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer on Sept. 8.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled in September that any ballots received by Nov. 6 and either postmarked by Nov. 3 or not definitively postmarked after Election Day must be counted, and that, as requested by Boockvar, “ballots received within this period that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by 8:00 p.m. on November 3 unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that the ballot was mailed after such time.”

“As long as there’s no affirmative evidence that it was postmarked after November 3, as long as it’s received by November 6, at 5 p.m., it will be counted,” Boockvar previously said.

The Supreme Court later declined to reverse the decision in a deadlocked 4-4 vote.

The Trump campaign on Nov. 4 filed a lawsuit to halt vote counting in Pennsylvania until Republican observers are granted access to the facilities counting and processing ballots.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.