Election Integrity

DR. RICK SACCONE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA

07 March 2021

Act 77 Review Committee

In November of 2019, the Republican controlled Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 77. The two most notable features of this legislation were that it expanded mail-in voting to all registered voters and eliminated straight party voting. In greatly expanding the mail-in voting, Act 77 put a number of other stress points on the system with the result that the integrity of the entire electoral system has come under extreme scrutiny.

Additionally, Act 77 increased the mail in voting period to 50 days, thus making it a season, rather than a period.

The Act moved the deadline to register from 30 days prior to the election to 15 days prior to the election. This seemingly innocuous move makes maintaining accurate voter rolls very difficult.

The act extended mail in and absentee submission deadlines until 8:00 PM on Election Day from 5:00 PM on the Friday before the election.

Following the 2020 General election and a series of lawsuits, the PA House and Senate have formed election review committee to review the election process and to make changes to the system.

At its Winter 2020 Meeting, the PAGOP, by Resolution, called on the legislature to repeal Act 77 and in a second resolution formed an Act 77 Review Committee to review the act, the resulting problems, and to make recommendations to the legislative committees for their consideration in amending the legislation.

VOTER ROLLS

  • Standards for Maintenance

    • Produce standard of maintenance

    • Require consistency between all counties

    • Create interstate database to detect registration in another state

    • Require use of USCIS SAVE database to identify Non-citizens on voter rolls

    • Initiate use of machine readable thumb print identification on affidavit envelope and mail in ballots

    • Initiate use of machine readable thumb print identification on mail in ballot application and voter registration

    • Require independent verification the functionality of the new SURE system against specifications

    • Require third party validation of new SURE system security structure

    • Require expert committee to develop functionality for new ERIC system

REGISTRATION ID REQUIREMENTS

  • Upgrade and strengthen ID requirements for external registration from motor voters and any similar systems

  • Assure strong online registration ID requirement

  • Photo ID is legal, part of existing law and required. Enforce it. Sec 15483 HAVA (section attached)

VOTING PROCESS TIMELINE

  • Completely restructure voting process timeline

    • The entire process is too long

    • Ballots begin to be mailed in too far before the election

    • Last day for ballots to be mailed to close to election

    • Ballots must be received before election day

    • Last day for registration is too close to election day

  • Pre-canvass

    • Begin verifying signatures (thumb prints) and voter eligibility as

    • ballots are received

    • Sort into precincts as ballots are received

    • Begin opening and flattening 7:00 AM election day (will require adequate people and equipment)

    • Require counties to produce a plan assuring adequate personnel and equipment to complete counting ballots on Election Day

STAFFING AND EQUIPMENT

  • Staffing and equipment

    • Require that minimum levels of personnel and equipment, based upon experience, be provided to process a certain number of ballots per hour to finish processing by 11:00 election day

  • Require that staff be trained prior to election day

  • Require Election Director to provide physical security plan for all canvas and tabulating areas

BALLOT SECURITY

  • Print absentee ballots on security paper that incorporates features that can be used to authenticate the ballot as an official ballot but do not make the ballot identifiable to a particular elector

  • See prior comments on thumb print security

  • Require that all ballot supplies be accounted for; blanks received, ballots sent, ballots returned etc.

BALLOT VERIFICATION

  • Require consistent rules for ballot verification

  • What information must be present on outer envelope

  • What missing information disqualifies a ballot (fatal flaw)

  • Specify there will be no ballot curing

  • If a ballot exhibits a fatal flaw what happens to it?

  • What information must be on the secrecy envelop?

  • What disqualifies a secrecy envelope?

  • What happens to a fatally flawed secrecy envelope?

  • Mandate signature verification/thumbprint verification

  • If signatures do not match registration signatures, what happens to the envelope?

  • Require that mail-in ballots be returned by First Class Mail so that

  • Post Marks are affixed.

  • If a ballot has a missing post mark, that is a fatal flaw.

  • While the signature and post mark requirements may sound harsh, they are appealable. If someone wants to bring in a handwriting expert, fine, that is a remedy. Another remedy is not to vote by mail. No one is disenfranchised by not being able to vote by mail.

POLL WATCHERS

  • Poll watchers may be any registered voter in the state

  • Poll watchers must not be unreasonably limited in number

  • Poll watchers must have access to every step of the ballot handling and counting process from the time ballots arrive at distribution sites to the time they are delivered to counting centers until they are opened and counted

  • Drop boxes and satellite election offices are part of the election process and may be covered by poll watchers

  • Ballot handling at Care Homes may be observed by poll watchers

  • Poll watchers must be given whatever access they require to assure that canvassing is being done fairly and honestly.

  • If a pause or stop in counting occurs, there must be a positive way to assure all equipment is shut down (and maybe locked out) until the count resumes with all observers present. Might require that machine counts or equipment hours be noted.

CARE HOMES

  • Need definitional language as to what can and cannot be done with regard to "bundling" ballots to and from care homes.

  • Require Assistance Affidavits if assistance is required to fill out ballots

  • Eliminate permanent absentee status

  • Define what involvement Care Home personnel may have in assisting residents to vote.

DROP BOXES

  • Ideally, eliminate drop boxes as they are unsupervised polling places

    • Drop boxes are not provided for in PA Election Code

    • If drop boxes or their contents are transported by third parties this is ballot harvesting

  • If drop boxes must exist

    • Require a statute that drop boxes are remote polling places and must be supervised

    • Require they be located in buildings and made available only during business hours

    • Limit the number of drop boxes. For example one per 100,000 voters

    • Assure fair placement of drop boxes

    • Assure chain of custody of ballots placed in drop boxes

PROVISIONAL BALLOTS

  • Require that if a mail in ballot is issued and a voter shows up at the poll, the voter must use a provisional ballot to vote.

  • If a replacement mail in ballot is issued because of loss or non delivery, the replacement ballot must be clearly marked "Replacement Ballot"

  • Clearly define what constitutes fatal flaws on provisional ballots

  • No ballot curing shall be permitted.

THIRD PARTY INVOLVEMENT

  • Ban third party financing or involvement in the election process

  • Ban third party access to the SURE system and any other data system for the purpose of obtaining data or using the system. Specifically, there shall be no web access to the system.

  • Ban third party and government solicitation of mail in ballot applications

  • Ban government from GOTV involvement. This includes mailers and advertising. The function of government is to administer elections.

  • Any third party software companies that work on election systems, software or communications infrastructure must pass background checks and work under the direction of county or state personnel.

  • Ban Web API access.

  • No third party systems or software personnel shall have access to live voting systems.

  • The Director of Elections shall sign an Affidavit prior to each election that the applicable IT department has examined all software and hardware and assured that it passes all required tests and that no equipment is connected to public internet or can be connected to public internet.

GUIDANCE AND INSTRUCTION

  • Require clear directive to the Department of State regarding the limits of guidance and instructions that may be given to county Election offices without legislative mandate.

  • Require clear direction as to the latest time new guidance may be issued to county Election Offices.

  • Recommend at least one month prior to Election Day.

LEGAL PROTECTION

  • Statutorily enable escalating due diligence. That is, if examination finds problems in one place, the court must allow time for examination of a wider sample. If the problem proves extensive, discovery with subpoena power must be allowed. This is to eliminate the "it's not big enough to effect the election" problem.

  • Statutorily require that each polling location reconcile its vote (number of voters and number of votes, number of voters with number of voter cards, spoiled cards and unused cards and proxy ballots) before turning them in to elections office.

  • Statutorily require that each county reconcile its vote (number of voters, number of votes including mail-in, absentee, proxy and write in ballots) before certifying results to State. County must also reconcile absentee ballots requested with those sent, returned, voted, not returned, spoiled and voted early. With some help from their IT Department it should be easy to run Mail in votes mailed against votes at the poll and absentee ballots voted.

  • See instructions in Sec. 3154 of Election Code and make mandatory to enforce. (Copy attached)

  • See instructions in Sec. 1402 of Election Code and make mandatory to enforce (Copy attached)

  • Statutorily require that the Dept. of State reconcile its vote before certifying and signing the Letter of Ascertainment.

  • Statutorily require the DOS to submit any and all information required by authorized auditors of the SURE system and the ERIC system