Seven. That is the number of times one man was registered to vote simultaneously in Allegheny County. He was not alone. Others were registered two, three, and even four times.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a national election integrity non-profit, made these alarming discoveries after an audit.
In February, PILF sued Allegheny County in federal court for allegedly failing to maintain accurate and reliable voter rolls. The lawsuit cited more than 12,000 unique problems meriting further investigation, including the apparently duplicated registrations, and incomplete or otherwise inaccurate entries including those of potentially deceased registrants.
The filing of the complaint immediately attracted the ire of ideologically driven activist groups, who routinely intervene in cases like this to oppose even the most basic voter roll cleanup efforts. The George Soros-backed players warned in briefs that local election officials, PILF, and a federal judge cannot be trusted to handle the matter properly without an ACLU-approved minder in the courtroom.
Where others dig in and fight to preserve dirty voter rolls, Allegheny County took the road less traveled. Over the next few months, under the terms of a Settlement Agreement and Release, PILF and the County will exchange voter list maintenance information and address registration file errors. The County also agreed to accept future voter list maintenance leads from PILF in the aftermath of the 2020 Election.
Transparency gives citizens confidence that their leaders are being determined in a fair and honest way.
The legal settlement demonstrates what can be accomplished when election officials accept assistance with maintaining accurate voter lists as they work to preserve the rights of all registrants and voters. Transparency gives citizens confidence that their leaders are being determined in a fair and honest way. Clean voter rolls reduce election administration costs amid these unprecedented times where resources are already stretched. A secondary downstream positive consequence includes reliable prospective juror lists, which are compiled from the voter registry. Everybody wins under this settlement in Allegheny County.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s leaders in Harrisburg do not share Allegheny County’s approach.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s leaders in Harrisburg do not share Allegheny County’s approach. In 2017, Commonwealth officials revealed that a so-called “glitch” at Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicle offices enabled noncitizens to register to vote going back decades. PILF used a federal open records law to request records showing how many noncitizens may have registered to vote. Allegheny County opened its books. State Department officials refused, forcing PILF to file a federal lawsuit to obtain public records. In December, a federal court rejected a request to dismiss the case. The Commonwealth continues to shield this information from public view. Throughout this fight, the Foundation came to learn that Allegheny County complained about the noncitizen “glitch” to Harrisburg as long ago as 2008—and perhaps even before that time.
The activist groups who hoped to block voter roll cleanups in Allegheny County are the same ones using the COVID-19 pandemic to push radical changes to our elections.
State and county election officials are perfectly capable of replicating the voter roll research that PILF performs. They are actually more equipped than any outsider—they only need the will to act. The time for that research is now. The activist groups who hoped to block voter roll cleanups in Allegheny County are the same ones using the COVID-19 pandemic to push radical changes to our elections. They want ballots automatically mailed to each registrant—no matter the underlying faults with their records. They want ballot harvesting without limits. They want to eliminate commonsense safeguards like witness and signature requirements. They want to count ballots received after Election Day for any reason. Litigation has been filed in Pennsylvania to force some of these extreme measures.
Making matters potentially worse on the mail ballot question in Pennsylvania is Harrisburg’s longstanding refusal to disclose even the most basic statistics. Since 2012, Commonwealth officials have largely failed to share the numbers of ballots returned undeliverable in the mail—typically caused by outdated registrant address records.
These activist-preferred schemes present obvious risks to the franchise where voter roll maintenance is ignored. Deceased individuals may receive ballots. People may receive two, three, or even seven unique ballots. Ballots may go to the wrong addresses. Confusion and fraud thrive in this type of chaotic environment.
Allegheny County deserves credit for agreeing to fix problems with its voter rolls. If we, the people, want honest and fair elections in 2020 and beyond, we must demand that all government officials follow Allegheny County’s lead.
Noel Johnson is an attorney with the Public Interest Legal Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Linda A. Kerns, a co-founder of Broad + Liberty, serves as Pennsylvania counsel to the Public Interest Legal Foundation. She can be reached at email@example.com. @lindakernslaw.