The events that took place on in the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber on Tuesday, January 5, 2020, were set in motion two months ago by the failure of the Allegheny Board of Elections to follow the law and the refusal of the Secretary of State to properly execute the law. Although I was not permitted to take part in the discussion and debate on the 45th district as this occurred prior to my being sworn into office, I do support this decision to ensure that the rightful candidate is sworn into office. The decision to delay swearing in a Senator for the 45th Senatorial District is based solely on the fact that we legitimately do not know who rightfully won this race.
The full timeline of events leading up to the improper certification are as follows:
September 28, 2020: Secretary Boockvar’s issues guidance to counties specifically stating:
“A ballot-return envelope with a declaration that is not filled out, dated, and signed is not sufficient and must be set aside, declared void and may not be counted.”
“Set aside any ballots without a filled out, dated and signed declaration envelope.”
Similar instructions were given at all times prior to the election by Allegheny County to its workers, and voters were instructed in numerous places on their website that they needed to comply with the instructions for filling out the ballot in order for it to be counted – which instructions included the requirement that the ballot be dated.
October 5, 2020: Secretary Boockvar submits a filing before the United States Supreme Court that refers to this requirement of signing and dating the declaration as an important election integrity/anti-fraud provision, stating:
“[T]he mail-in ballot envelope contains a Voter’s Declaration that must be signed and dated by the qualified elector. Even absent a legible postmark, if a declaration indicates it was signed after Election Day, that would be compelling evidence that the ballot was not timely mailed. Lying on this declaration constitutes voter fraud. 25 P.S. 3527.”
October 23, 2020: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, through an opinion drafted by Justice Todd, states that the duty of the County in canvassing or pre-canvassing mail-in ballots is to determine if the ballot declaration is “sufficient,” stating further:
“The requirements for a ballot declaration are set forth in Section 3146.6(a) (absentee ballots) and Section 3150.16(a) (mail-in ballots). Both sections require that the elector “fill out, date and sign the declaration.” Id. sections 3146.6(a), 3150.16(a). Thus, in determining whether the declaration is “sufficient” for a mail-in or absentee ballot at canvassing, the county board is required to ascertain whether the declaration on the return envelope has been filled out, dated and signed.” In re: November 3, 2020 General Election, 240 A.2d 591 (Pa 2020).
November 10, 2020: Ignoring prior instructions and decisions, the Allegheny County Board of Elections decided to count the undated mail-in/absentee ballots.
November 19, 2020: The Commonwealth Court states:
There “is an obvious and salutary purpose behind the requirement that a voter date the declaration. The date provides a measure of security, establishing the date on which the elector actually executed the ballot in full, ensuring their desire to cast it in lieu of appearing in person at a polling place. The presence of the date also establishes a point in time against which to measure the elector’s eligibility to case the ballot, as reflected in the body of the declaration itself.” In re 2,349 Ballots in 2020 Gen. Election, 2020 WL 6820816 at *6.
November 23, 2020: Allegheny County Board of Elections certifies the results but does not include the undated mail-in/absentee ballots in the overall total of vote count, though they were included as a separate tally on the certification.
November 23, 2020: In reference to the case involving the mail-in/absentee ballots in the 45th District came before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a series of decisions issued on, four justices agree that the language in the Election Code that a voter “shall” date the Declaration means that a failure to include that date would invalidate the ballot; but one justice broke from that group and stated that he would essentially waive that rule for this election only, thereby joining with three other justices in affirming the decision of the Allegheny County Board of Elections that the undated ballots would be counted in the 45th Senate District.
November 25, 2020: Allegheny County Board of Elections issues a revised certification which includes the undated mail-in/absentee ballots in the overall total of votes counted.
November 25, 2020: Ziccarelli filed in federal court, WDPA.
November 28, 2020: Sec. Boockvar accepted the certified final returns from Allegheny County Board of Elections including undated ballots.
November 30, 2020: Westmoreland County Board of Elections certified to Sec Boockvar its final election results which did not include undated ballots.
December 16, 2020: Sec. Boockvar certified general election results for offices, including State Senator Jim Brewster.
The actions of Allegheny County created an “Equal Protection” situation where ballots in the same Senate district race were counted differently. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State decided to certify the election even though the people of this senatorial district were not provided the appropriate constitutional protections. As a result, Nicole Ziccarelli filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Senate, which is a procedure codified in law, to review the election and also filed with the Federal Court to make sure that the constitutional rights of the people of the 45th Senatorial District are upheld. In addition, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that 21 uncounted provisional ballots submitted at a North Huntingdon voting precinct on Election Day were discovered the last week of December among computer equipment used at the polls in November. Questions clearly remain about the outcome as the Senate and the Federal Court review the evidence.
Please know that the citizens in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties will not be denied constituent services since staff are continuing to operate while the situation is being resolved. Furthermore, suggestions that we are attempting to “steal an election” or “attacking democracy” are reprehensible and beneath the dignity of the Senate and ignore that all provisions of the constitution and law are being followed. The only possible way this election could have been stolen was on November 10, when Allegheny County decided to improperly count the ballots in question. We are not seeking to overturn the rightful result of the election or ignore the will of the people in any way, shape or form. We are simply trying to get this decision right. We believe it is more important for things to be done right than to be done quickly.
Following is a short video further explaining the conflict in the 45th Senatorial District: The Voters of the 45th District Deserve Due Process