Pennsylvania GOP nominee wants errant ballots disqualified, special prosecutors to fight crime

Gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano has moved to within 2 points in Trafalgar poll as crime rises as an issue in voters' equation.

Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano is proposing the Legislature make clear to election officials that errant absentee ballots must be disqualified from counting and create the power for the next governor to appoint special prosecutors to supplant liberal district attorneys if they don't enforce criminal laws aggressively.

Buoyed by a poll putting him just two points behind Democrat Josh Shapiro despite being outspent, Mastriano told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show Wednesday night that his law-and-order approach was helping him surge in the final weeks of the election because residents are weary of soaring crime in places like Philadelphia where Democrats have had constant control for decades.

"My appeal is you've tried the Democrat party, you gave them 72 years, and it's become more dangerous," he said in a wide-ranging interview. "A gravedigger says they can't keep up with the amount of dead teens that are laying to rest as a result of this lawlessness in Philly. So it's time for a change, and Doug Mastriano is going to come in and going to defend your communities ... as I did in uniform for 30 years."

Mastriano promised to enact an agenda that includes increasing police presence in crime-weary communities. "We're going to continue that service and make sure that you have a chance to live in peace and safety rather than looking over your shoulder and wondering if some random gunman is going to come after you."

One proposal he said he would bring to the Legislature is the power to appoint special prosecutors who have the authority to prosecute criminals and keep violent suspects behind bars while they await trial when liberal district attorneys refuse to do so. State lawmakers are in the process right now of possibly impeaching Philadelphia's district attorney for alleged dereliction of duty.

"I'll be working with the House and Senate to make sure we up the number of law enforcement that are out in the streets and fighting to defend the communities that they'll have the resources they need," he said. "Additionally, I'm looking forward to getting authorization from the General Assembly to serve special prosecutors in the Philadelphia and other high crime areas. So if you do the crime, you're going to do the time."

Mastriano, a retired military officer and state senator who endorsed Donald Trump, said his opponent, Shapiro, as attorney general, is complicit in the rising crime because he has not done more to push DAs to enforce laws. He said getting legislative approval for special prosecutors will be a top priority.

"We have to do something," he said. "We can't stand aside. So our attorney general is not doing his job. So that's okay. We'll do it for him, and I'll have the authorization from the General Assembly to do so."

Mastriano began the general election significantly behind Shapiro in the polls and fundraising. While some polls still have Shapiro comfortably in the lead, the Trafalgar Group, which has a strong history of projecting Trump vote turnout, reported last month that Shapiro's lead had fallen to just 2 points, or inside the margin of error.

The GOP nominee has made election integrity a major part of his platform, and he said Wednesday he wants the Legislature to clarify that absentee ballots that aren't filled out correctly must not be counted by local election officials. His comment came after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday vacated a federal appeals court ruling that suggested errant ballots could be counted. The high court remanded the case back to the trial judge in a win for Republicans.

Despite that ruling, Pennsylvania's top election official does not plan to take any action in response to the Supreme Court decision, and that means the Legislature should intervene, Mastriano said.

"Our Secretary of State issued a paper today saying basically that they don't recognize this decision," he said. "And so we're going to have a fight. I think the General Assembly might take that up. But what this means is very simple. You have to fill out your ballot correctly, just like I voted most of my life by absentee ballot as a soldier for 30 years. If you did not sign the ballot, it was very clear your vote wouldn't count."

Mastriano said he is encouraged about his prospects especially because Democrats' requests for absentee ballots are down from 2020.

"It looks like it's about 40% less than last time in 2020," he said. "And the number of Democrats asking for the ballots are way down, and the number of Republicans is slightly up. And so I think that works to our advantage."