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Scrutiny of top PA election official grows as GOP says she 'fundamentally altered' outcome

The Pennsylvania Secretary of State advised that a voter whose mail-in ballot was rejected would be eligible to vote in-person with a provisional ballot on Election Day.

Updated: November 6, 2020 - 7:42pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

In a guidance to her state's counties dated Oct. 21, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar advised that a voter whose mail-in ballot was rejected would be eligible to vote in-person with a provisional ballot on Election Day as a way to "cure" their ballot.

Now, GOP Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, state House of Representatives candidate Joseph Hamm and four other plaintiffs are suing Boockvar over her guidance.

After some county election officials questioned the guidance, Jonathan Marks, deputy secretary of state for elections and commissions, clarified on Nov. 2 how the department of state wanted counties to handle the rejected mail-in ballots.

Marks advised county election officials to inform "party and candidate representatives" about the identification of the voters whose ballots had been rejected as a way "to facilitate communication with these voters."

According to the lawsuit, the counties of Berks, Carbon, Blair, Clinton, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lycoming and Perry ultimately declined to implement the guidance. The suit argues that individuals who submitted rejected mail-in ballots shouldn't have been given provisional ballots on Tuesday,

Just the News was able to reach representatives for Adams, York, Montgomery and Bedford counties, who said they were not familiar with the contents of the Oct. 21 guidance.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State told Just the News that every county in the state received the Oct. 21 guidance.

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati have called for Boockvar to resign over her handling of the rejected mail-in ballots. They argue that Boockvar "fundamentally altered" the way the state runs its elections.

"The Department changed the rules again on November 2 when they provided last-second guidance directing counties to provide information to help voters whose mail-in or absentee ballots were incorrectly completed so those voters could vote on a provisional ballot," Corman and Scarnati wrote in a joint statement.

"The late release of this 'guidance' resulted in inconsistent application across the counties — some of whom contacted voters as directed and some who did not," the state senators added. "There is no basis for this guidance in current law. The Secretary created this new process out of thin air."

Boockvar "told the U.S. Supreme Court on October 28 that ballots received after 8 p.m. on November 3 would be segregated, but she changed the rules on November 1 and directed counties to canvass those ballots as soon as possible upon receipt," the lawmakers said. "In some counties, it is not possible to both segregate and canvass ballots as directed."

A journalist asked Boockvar about Lancaster County's decision not to follow the guidance on curing rejected mail-ballots.

"It is absolutely feasible and not even challenging," she said on Wednesday.

On Twitter, Corman, the Pennsylvania Senate's top Republican, highlighted several past anti-Trump tweets Boockvar has written since 2016 as part of his criticism of her handling of the general election in the state.

"Using the title 'President' before the word 'Trump' really demeans the office of the presidency," Boockvar tweeted in March 2017.

In August 2016, Boockvar wrote, "Trump already provided so many arguments of being dangerously unfit; Now, he proved it beyond doubt."

Reposting her tweets on his account Thursday, Corman wrote: "From the arbiter of our election process in PA. Guess we know why she has made such great efforts to fundamentally alter the manner in which Pennsylvania's election is being conducted." 

Brianna Kraemer contributed to this report.

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