In recent days, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has announced a series of steps that he says will help to ensure the integrity of Pennsylvania’s voting system against foreign threat.
But according to state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the chairman of the House State Government Committee, one of the top threats to electoral integrity in the state is Wolf himself.
The governor announced on July 20 that he had directed the creation of a “workgroup” of eight state agencies and offices to look into election security. In a release on the governor’s website, he tied the action directly to a recent indictment of a number of Russian nationals for alleged actions against U.S. voting systems.
“With Congressional Republicans failing to renew funding to help states enhance election security and the White House in denial over foreign aggression, my administration is taking additional action to protect Pennsylvania elections,” Wolf said. “I am directing several state agencies that protect our commonwealth to partner with our Department of State, so Pennsylvanians can continue to have confidence in the integrity of our elections.
The entities that make up the workgroup are the Department of State, the Office of Administration, the Governor’s Office, the Office of Homeland Security, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of State Inspector General and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
The actual mandate for the workgroup is fairly broadly drawn.
“The workgroup will collaborate on increasing security resources, training, support, information, and preparation at all levels of election administration,” the release states. “The group will oversee participation in tabletop exercises that help train election personnel on how to prepare for a wide range of potential scenarios. Additionally, the workgroup will hold several community forums around the state on election security.”
Metcalfe responded this week with a statement of his own, calling Wolf’s actions “a supreme act of hypocrisy.” The Cranberry Township Republican noted that he has been locked in a months-long battle with the Wolf administration over access to records of foreign individuals illegally registered to vote in Pennsylvania.
“Wolf and his Department of State have been dragging their feet at every turn to keep records regarding foreign nationals illegally registering to vote in Pennsylvania hidden from the public,” Metcalfe wrote. “It is precisely the governor’s obstruction and obstinate refusal to release this information that is truly disturbing, and calls into question, not for the first time, the Wolf administration’s judgment, priorities and commitment to transparency and election integrity.”
Metcalfe also said that he intends to use his committee chairmanship to exercise oversight of the Wolf administration when it comes to election integrity, vowing to hold a public hearing in the fall on the topic.
“Both Wolf and his Department of State must be held fully accountable for blatantly obstructing the right of Pennsylvania voters to know how many of their votes were illegally negated by foreign nationals,” Metcalfe said. “Once this information is released, it is my hope that we can get a clear picture regarding the total magnitude of this problem and take immediate action to further ensure that every legally cast vote in Pennsylvania is fairly and equally counted.”
While Metcalfe was focused on election integrity, another member of the state Legislature was moving this week to increase access to the ballot box. State Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, announced his intention to sponsor legislation that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds in Pennsylvania to preregister for voting so that they’ll already be on the voting rolls once they turn 18 and gain the right to vote.
“Especially in the wake of the tragic school shootings, and after repeated challenges to our democracy, our young people are engaged in the political process,” Farnese said. “We should do all we can to remove all obstacles to their participation and give them a voice in our democracy.”
Farnese said that the state can simultaneously put forth reforms that expand ballot access while also ensuring that the election system is safe from intrusion and fraud.
“Our electoral system needs to be open, transparent and inclusive,” Farnese said. “We can institute more reforms that create a better electoral access while ensuring that the system is secure from hacks and manipulation.”