Pa. auditor, Department of State clash over voter roll issues

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says he found thousands of discrepancies in a review of county registration records. But the department says he’s overstating the issue.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale speaks at a news conference in Harrisburg on Monday, November 25, 2019. (Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale speaks at a news conference in Harrisburg on Monday, November 25, 2019. (Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

Pennsylvania’s auditor general says his office’s latest review of the Department of State turned up more than 50,000 cases of possibly inaccurate voter records.

He wants the department to do more to make sure counties are entering data correctly. But department officials say his review was flawed.

Counties have control of elections in the commonwealth, but the DOS is supposed to oversee them using the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, or SURE.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday that he found instances of duplicate drivers’ license records and mistaken dates of birth and voter registration, among other things.

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He noted, the potential errors affect less than one percent of the data and didn’t point to intentional malfeasance, but said that “the more there’s some of these potential record errors, the possibility exists of somebody trying to abuse that.”

The Department of State, which is already in the process of updating the SURE system, responded with an unusually strong rebuke of the report, calling DePasquale’s findings “flawed and misleading.”

Secretary Kathy Boockvar said she’s concerned he is overstating small issues.

“If you add in enough data points, which we have and they have, you can rule out what might appear to be a duplicate but in fact is not a duplicate,” she said.

In response, DePasquale said that “maybe they should have waited until I spoke before issuing a press release.”

He also objected to the way some counties and the DOS handled his requests for information.

In the wake of the 2016 election, the Department of Homeland Security announced that 21 states’ election systems had been subject to attempted hacking. Pennsylvania was among them, and at some point, Homeland Security gave the DOS information about the attempted hack.

DePasquale attempted to request that information from the DOS, but they released it with virtually all useful material redacted. Boockvar said the department’s Interagency Election Security and Preparedness Workgroup, which includes the state’s adjutant general and inspector general, among others, made that decision due to security concerns.

DePasquale also said four counties—Allegheny, York, Bucks and Warren — didn’t provide him their voter roll data, and didn’t respond to requests or explain why they were withholding it.

He recommended that going forward, the DOS work more closely with counties to make sure deceased voters are taken off the rolls and driver’s license numbers are accurate.

Boockvar said she’s willing to consider some of the recommendations, like adding new functions to the overhauled SURE system and updating guidance for counties.

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