Lawmakers demand answers for 240,000 unverified Pennsylvania mail-in ballots

by Jacob Fuller

Chris Lieberman, FISM News


Pennsylvania lawmakers voiced their concerns this week over the 240,000 mail-in ballots sent to voters with unverified IDs less than 2 weeks before the midterm elections in the crucial swing state.

Fifteen legislators from Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives led by Francis X. Ryan (R) sent a letter to acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman noting that the state has given contradictory information over whether or not ballots should be sent to voters who have not verified their ID.

Ryan quotes Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks saying at a State Government Committee Hearing on Sept. 14, “If when you apply [for a mail-in ballot], your PennDOT ID cannot be verified or your last four of SSN cannot be verified, the county can still issue the ballot, but the ballot doesn’t count unless the voter provides a valid form of ID – either a PennDOT ID or the last four of SSN that can be verified or one of the other forms of identification provided for in the statute.”

But Marks’ statement conflicts with a State Department directive issued less than two weeks later stating that a voter’s ID must be verified before a ballot can be sent. “The Pennsylvania Election Code describes processes that a qualified voter follows to apply for, receive, complete and timely return an absentee or mail-in ballot to their county board of election … Before sending the ballot to the applicant, the county board of elections confirms the qualifications of the applicant by verifying the proof of identification and comparing the information provided on the application with the information contained in the voter record.”

The letter warns that this discrepancy could lead to confusion for poll workers on election day. “Either the ballots are mailed to unverified applicants or ballots are not mailed to unverified applicants but both statements cannot be true. Due to this conflicting information, conscientious election workers could unknowingly accept and count ballots for which no verification has ever occurred.”

Ryan goes on to note reports of election officials “fixing” mistakes in the ID verification process, such as altering transposed digits,  with no action taken by the voter.

In light of these findings, the letter calls on Pennsylvania’s State Department to, “Immediately issue a directive to all counties informing them of the requirement to set those ballots aside and not pre-canvass, canvass, or count any of them unless and until the applicant provides a valid form of identification. Make it clear to all counties that they may not ‘fix’ non-matching identification and they may not count those ballots until proof of ID is received from the voter.”

This letter comes the same week that Chapman warned of potential delays in vote counting in Pennsylvania.

“It’s really important for us to get accurate information about the election process in Pennsylvania,” Chapman said at a virtual news conference Monday. “So voters and the public know that when there are delays in counting, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything nefarious happening. It’s just what the law is in Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania state law does not allow poll workers to begin opening or counting mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on election day.

These issues in voting could prove to add further drama on election day in a state with several key contests. The Senate race between Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman could determine which party controls the chamber. FiveThirtyEight projects a close race, giving Fetterman a 59% chance to come out on top. Polling shows a less competitive race for governor, with Democrat Josh Shapiro given a 95% chance to defeat Republican Doug Mastriano, according to FiveThirtyEight.