Over a quarter of a million ballots unlawfully sent to unverified Pennsylvania voters: report

by Samantha Flom

Photo: Alamy

Hundreds of thousands of ballots have been sent to unverified Pennsylvania voters ahead of the 2022 general election, according to a new report.

A report released Monday by election integrity group Verity Vote states that as of Oct. 17, 249,000 ballots had been mailed to individuals in Pennsylvania who failed to provide valid identification as outlined by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.

“The ramification of this defective process is that tens of thousands of people would have to show up at a county election office to present ID to comply with the law rather than the trivial process of correcting at the time of entry,” the report adds.

Under HAVA, to vote in a federal election, registrants must provide valid identification in the form of a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number. The state must assign those who do not have either a unique identifying number. 

Further, the law specifies that individuals voting by mail must provide identification in the form of a copy of either a current and valid photo ID or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or another government document that displays the voter’s name and address.

However, the Verity Vote report notes that the state has recently put forward contradictory statements about how and when mail-in ballots are verified.

At a Sept. 14 meeting of Pennsylvania’s State Government Committee, Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks testified that if a vote-by-mail applicant fails to provide proper identification, their ballot is mailed anyway and verified upon return.

On the other hand, on Sept. 26, the Pennsylvania Department of State issued conflicting guidance stating that the proper procedure under state law is for applicants’ identities to be verified prior to their ballot being mailed.

Noting that this discrepancy could lead to the counting of unverified ballots, 15 state representatives sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman requesting that the State Department immediately issue a directive to all counties to set aside the unverified ballots “and not pre-canvass, canvass, or count any of them unless and until the applicant provides a valid form of identification.” 

Released just two weeks before Election Day, the Verity Vote report follows months of increasing concerns over the integrity of U.S. elections. Those concerns are particularly high in hotly contested Pennsylvania, where the State Department has advised counties to allow the counting of undated mail-in ballots.

Republicans have sued the state over that decision, but it remains to be seen whether an order nullifying that directive will come before the Nov. 8 election.

President Donald J. Trump, for his part, has vocally opposed the allowance of widespread mail-in voting, holding that voting in person on Election Day would resolve issues like those currently plaguing Pennsylvania.

“Stop the mail-in ballots unless it’s for military and overseas or very sick people, people that just can’t vote — and they have to have some kind of a real excuse,” he said last year. “I think paper ballots, same-day voting would be great. Those things, you’d straighten out your elections.”

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