Senate President Pro Tempore Corman: 45th Senate District Voters Deserve Due Process

Below is a statement from Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-34) on the disputed 45th Senator District election, video remarks, and a timeline of the events surrounding the election.

VIDEO: The 45th District

VIDEO: Getting it Right Not Fast

VIDEO: Behavior of Lieutenant Governor

“We remain committed to conducting the business of the Senate in accordance with the Pennsylvania constitution, the law and our rules without the displays of partisanship and the level of disrespect that we saw Tuesday.

“What we are facing is a Senate district that encompasses parts of two counties and each of those counties tabulated the votes differently. With a razor-thin difference in the vote totals, the results hang in the balance.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court set the table for Tuesday’s controversy. Their ruling was followed by a premature certification by Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar who ignored the fact that voters in Westmoreland County and Allegheny County were treated differently. Secretary Boockvar certified the election without offering any clarification to the counties to ensure that voters were all being treated equally.

“This a complex issue was further complicated by a 500-plus page petition that was filed late last week by the candidate for the 45th Senate District Nicole Ziccarelli followed by a 120-plus page response by PA Senate candidate James Brewster.

“Everyone deserves due process and we owe it to the residents of the 45th District to fully explore the petition that has been filed before us. This is what is right.

“We want to undertake a thorough and transparent review that addresses the issues that were raised in the voluminous pages filed with the Senate.

“We will undertake a review that will be independent and provide findings that may include:

  • The role of the Senate in this process as it relates to election contests.
  • Determine the election and qualifications of any individual to be seated in Senate District 45 under Article 2 Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
  • Other legal issues as they arise.

“This is about fairness and due process. While we work to resolve this issue expeditiously, we know this are confident a brief delay in filling the seat for the 45th Senate District will not affect the balance of power in the Senate. Meanwhile, constituents in this district will continue to receive assistance with their state-related issues.

“We understand that this issue needs to be resolved quickly, while ensuring that the constituents of the 45th Senate District have properly elected representation.”

Timeline of 45th Senate District Election 

The Elector shall fill out, date and sign the declaration printed on such envelope. 25 PS 3146.6(a) and 25 PS 3150.16(a). 

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.