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Pennsylvania House Speaker seeks 'full audit' of election returns before certification

Pennsylvania senate majority leader says it's too early to tell if the secretary of state's handling of the rejected mail-in ballots on the county level will have a significant impact on the vote count in the state.

Updated: November 6, 2020 - 11:30pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler is calling for a "full audit" of the presidential election returns in the state before the results are certified.

In his letter to Gov. Tom Wolf requesting the audit on Friday, Cutler, a Republican, cited the Oct. 21 guidance from Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar about allowing individuals with rejected mail-in ballots to vote with a provisional ballot as a way to "cure" their ballot. 

A follow-up guidance sent to counties on Nov. 2 advised county election officials to inform "party and candidate representatives" about the identity of the voters whose ballots had been rejected as a way "to facilitate communication with these voters."

"Very serious equal protection rights issues now exist due to the disparate treatment of voters from different counties," Cutler wrote in the letter.

Just the News asked Cutler Friday if the secretary of state's office sent the clarification guidance on Nov. 2 to the boards of elections in every county or only certain ones.

"That's certainly probably something that should be covered in the audit," Cutler said. "I know that our county commissioners in Lancaster received it because they were the ones who notified me of it because they recognized that it was not entirely consistent with the agreement obtained in the Supreme Court decision previously, and that being the United States Supreme Court. The original set of instructions that were agreed to were then later modified." 

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said it is too early to tell if the secretary of state's handling of the rejected mail-in ballots on the county level will have a significant impact on the vote count in the Keystone state.

Corman said he's not sure how many counties followed the guidance or rejected it. 

"These are things that we don't know that we want to know," he said. 

The counties of Berks, Carbon, Blair, Clinton, Lancaster and Perry ultimately declined to implement the guidance that would allow the individuals to "cure" the rejected ballots, according to a lawsuit GOP Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, state House of Representatives candidate Joseph Hamm and four other plaintiffs filed against Boockvar.

Just the News was able to reach representatives for the boards of elections in Pike, Potter and Bucks who said they followed the guidance, but the cured ballots had been set aside for the time being. Representatives for the boards of elections in Adams, York, Montgomery and Bedford counties said they were not familiar with the contents of the Oct. 21 guidance. Boards of elections representatives in Elk, Erie and McKean acknowledged they received the guidance but declined to elaborate on whether they fully implemented it.

Cumberland, Schuylkill, Philadelphia, Montgomery and Wayne have not returned requests for comment on whether they followed the guidance for curing mail-in ballots. Just the News tried to reach the board of elections offices in many other counties in the state, but no representatives answered the phone when contacted.

The Pennsylvania Department of State did not respond to our request to know how many counties declined to follow their guidance.

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