HARRISBURG — Majority Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and 16 Republican members of the House State Government Committee sent the following letter to Gov. Tom Wolf in response to the governor’s refusal to cooperate with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity:
Dear Governor Wolf,
We are writing to express our disappointment with the letter that you sent on June 30 to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Your refusal to cooperate with the Commission’s reasonable request to provide publicly available data and input from the states for the purpose of improving our election system is unacceptable and brings Pennsylvania into disrepute.
This Commission is made up of a bipartisan group of distinguished state election officials from both Democratic and Republican state administrations. The Commission was formed to ‘promote fair and honest’ elections by making a study of the registration and voting processes used in elections. Neither the Commission’s composition, nor its mission, lead logically to your outrageous assertion that the Commission’s request ‘implies that [the Commission] may undertake a systematic effort to suppress the vote in Pennsylvania.
The letter sent by the Commission simply requested that Pennsylvania provide any publicly available voter roll data. It did not, as your letter implies, demand that we turn over other private, personal data of citizens when such data was not publicly available or when doing so would violate state law.
As your letter contrarily notes, the publicly available voter file can be purchased from the Department of State for $20 by any citizen. You also properly indicate that such data must only be used for legally permissible purposes and may not be published on the Internet in accordance with state law. It is, however, shocking for you to claim that this information can be safely handed out to anyone with $20, but that you will not provide it to a lawfully created, bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission tasked with analyzing our election system.
Your response deprives Pennsylvania of a seat at the table with a bipartisan Commission that may be helpful in analyzing and addressing many issues regarding election integrity. The Commission’s letter called for the state’s feedback regarding a host of items that it may consider in the future. Your dismissive, and at times even insulting, letter ignored the opportunity for the state to provide a thoughtful response. You have let your desire to say no to a Commission created by the President outweigh your responsibility to do what is best for Pennsylvania.
Furthermore, your response makes it appear that your administration has something to hide that may be uncovered if an investigation into voter fraud is conducted. If you are so certain that voter fraud is not a significant issue, then the best way to demonstrate this would be to cooperate with this bipartisan commission.
Unfortunately, as you may be aware, Pennsylvania has been the subject of several well-documented cases of voter irregularities in the past few years alone. In January 2016, three former Philadelphia election officials pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of violating the Election Code. An additional four Philadelphia election officials were charged with election fraud in 2015.
The House State Government Committee held a hearing on improving the integrity of elections in October 2016. A testifier from the Public Interest Legal Foundation presented evidence obtained through public records requests to the Committee that a number of foreign nationals have been registered to vote in Philadelphia and have illegally voted in prior elections.
In addition, Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt released a report investigating the city’s 2012 primary election. The report concluded that there were hundreds of cases of irregularities that warranted further investigation including cases of voting by non-registered individuals, non-U.S. citizens, individuals voting more than once, individuals voting in the incorrect party’s primary, and divisions with more recorded votes than voters.
Finally, numerous studies, including a 2012 study by the Pew Center, have shown that voting rolls are filled with invalid or inaccurate registrations. This includes many voters who are registered in another state or who are deceased. Any one of these incidents alone should be enough reason for you to be willing to cooperate in any way possible with a bipartisan Commission seeking to improve voting integrity throughout the country.
You conclude your letter, Governor Wolf, by lecturing the Commission that the ‘right to vote is absolute and I have no confidence that you seek to bolster it.’ Please allow us to make some necessary qualifications to your statement.
The right to vote is absolute, but only to citizens of our state who are legally permitted to do so. We have no confidence that you seek to protect Pennsylvanian voters who are properly exercising their right to vote by preventing those who should not be voting in our state from doing so.
Your absolute refusal to even engage with the Commission is detrimental to Pennsylvania. Regardless of political party affiliation or ideology, every patriotic governor should cooperate to ensure the integrity of our elections.