Safeguarding Election integrity: Pennsylvania Will Remove Dead Voters from Voter Rolls

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A person holds the certificate of votes from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania during theJoint Session of Congress after the session resumed following protests at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, early on January 7, 2021.
A person holds the certificate of votes from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania during theJoint Session of Congress after the session resumed following protests at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, early on January 7, 2021. (Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

The state of Pennsylvania has agreed to remove the names of deceased people from voter rolls after state officials arrived at a settlement with election integrity watchdog Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). The organization had filed a lawsuit against the state’s election officials in November last year, alleging that at least 21,000 names on the voter rolls just a month prior to the 2020 presidential race were of deceased people. Almost 9,200 had been dead for over five years while 2,000 were dead for at least a decade.

As part of the settlement, Pennsylvania officials committed to comparing its voter registration database with the Social Security Death Index, following which all county election commissions would be instructed to remove all dead registrants.

“This marks an important victory for the integrity of elections in Pennsylvania… The Commonwealth’s failure to remove deceased registrants created a vast opportunity for voter fraud and abuse. It is important to not have dead voters active on the rolls for 5, 10, or even 20 years. This settlement fixes that,” PILF President and General Counsel J Christian Adams said in a statement.

The settlement mandates that Department of State compare data from the Electronic Registration Information Center with the vote registration database prior to the 2021 election, and transmit the names of people identified to be deceased to the respective county commissions. 

In addition, the department will provide PILF with copies of voter export on May 30, August 31, and November 30, 2021. The department said that it is pleased that the settlement will allow the county boards of election “another valuable tool” to ensure that their voter rolls are up-to-date and accurate. It will also pay $7,500 to PILF that will partially cover the organization’s attorney fees and other costs.

The 2020 presidential race in the state was won by Biden, who defeated Trump by 80,555 votes or around 1 percent of the total votes. Trump had filed lawsuits that contested the election results, however, all lawsuits were thrown out by the courts. 

The state of Texas had filed a lawsuit in which it accused election law violations in Pennsylvania, including abrogating signature verification, failure to segregate ballots, and changing the mail-in ballot deadline. The suit was also dismissed by the court.

The settlement comes as Pennsylvania has set the deadline for voter registration for the primary election on May 3. The primaries are scheduled for May 18. “I encourage all eligible voters to make sure that they are registered and their information is up to date. Municipal elections give residents the opportunity to select the local leaders who make decisions that affect our daily lives… It’s easy to register to vote or update your registration online,” Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid said in a statement.

All voters will be eligible to vote on three ballot questions in the primaries, with each question dealing with a proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s constitution. Only people who have been citizens of the U.S. for one month before the primary are eligible for voter registration. Those who wish to vote by mail in the primaries must send an application for their ballot by May 11.