HARRISBURG, Pa. — Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor, is perhaps the state’s most prominent peddler The lie of former President Donald Trump this widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election.
Mastriano is a retired US Army Senator and Colonel and says he wants to re-register everyone if they want to vote again. According to legal scholars, the concept flatly violates federal law and may conflict with state law, not to mention the protection of the constitution. It’s also a recourse to laws drafted by whites in bygone eras to discourage blacks or more recent European immigrants from voting.
But Mastriano, who was present at the US Capitol, meanwhile the uprising of January 6th and was supported by TrumpHe is undeterred by this and discusses his plan to re-register before and after Won the Republican nomination for governor on May 17th.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states where governors appoint a Secretary of State to oversee elections. That means a Mastriano win in November could make Pennsylvania the premier presidential battlefield state – a test of whether laws designed to protect voters’ access to elections can be undermined.
WHAT DID MASTRIANO SAID?
It’s unclear where Mastriano got the idea, and he hasn’t responded to repeated requests for interviews on this or any other topic. But he has suggested re-registration as a necessary step to clear voter rolls of dead voters and ghost voters — voters registered at nonexistent addresses — in time for the 2024 presidential election.
In a governor’s primary debate in April, Mastriano said that if elected, he would require voters to “re-register.” We’re going to start all over again.”
In an interview with conservative broadcaster Newsmax three days after the primary, Mastriano suggested it was a move his appointed foreign secretary could take without the approval of lawmakers.
“We may need to reset the registry and start the whole process here,” Mastriano said. “There’s still a lot of dead on the reels and what have you got and there are ghost phantom selectors which we’ve also found at various addresses.”
If elected, he said these steps and others are of the utmost urgency: “So we’re going to take this very seriously and we’re going to act really tough. Basically, we have about a year to fix this before the 2024 presidential election.”
IS IT LEGAL?
Scholars specializing in electoral law said they hadn’t heard of any state doing anything similar recently — likely because there are laws in place to prevent it.
It’s certainly precluded, at least for federal elections, by the National Voter Registration Act, and likely faces significant protections under the constitution and federal — and possibly state — laws, constitutionalists say.
“No, a state cannot just unilaterally require everyone to re-register for federal elections,” said Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University who directs the school’s voting rights program.
Federal law aside, Pennsylvania law says that no registered voter can be required to re-register while living at the same address.
The National Voter Registration Act allows states to delist voters at the request of an individual and requires states to make “reasonable” efforts to keep voter registration lists free of individuals who have died or moved away.
But it also limits the power of states to unilaterally erase voter rolls.
Under Pennsylvania law, this means that someone who has not voted for five years cannot simply be removed without an effort to contact them by mail, followed by a grace period of two more federal elections.
HOW WOULD IT WORK?
Legal issues aside, having voters re-register would be an administrative nightmare and put a huge strain on local voting offices, said Edgardo Cortes, an election security adviser and Virginia’s elections commissioner under former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.
“It’s just a bad idea,” Cortes said.
In any case, it probably doesn’t solve anything: Forcing everyone to re-register wouldn’t stop voters from dying or moving away, Cortes said.
“The moment you re-register everyone, you run into these things again,” Cortes said.
Has anything like this ever happened?
The Southern states introduced annual re-registration requirements after Reconstruction, with some of these laws lasting at least until 1971. The laws were seen as one of the mechanisms these states tried to use to discourage black people from voting.
“So it definitely doesn’t have a favorable history,” said Michael Morley, a Florida State University law professor who specializes in constitutional and electoral law.
Northern states also imposed it on major cities like Philadelphia and New York City in the early 1900s, which researchers say had higher populations of new immigrants from Europe.
Perhaps the most modern comparison is to a Texas law enacted in 1966, shortly after the 24th Amendment outlawed poll taxes. Texas law limited voting to those who re-register annually and provided a four-month registration time frame.
A three-judge federal court panel struck down this in 1971, calling it a “direct descendant of the poll tax.”
WHAT EFFECT COULD IT HAVE?
U.S. District Judge John V. Singleton wrote in the 1971 Opinion that it was “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the requirement disenfranchised “many otherwise eligible Texas citizens,” citing research by a University of Texas professor who found that Registration and high turnout were lower in states with annual registration laws.
Separate research, cited by Singleton – a Washington University professor – found that such laws also had strong class biases, effectively suppressing the voting rights of working- and middle-class residents and minorities.
Political scientists said they were not aware of any modern research on such a law.
But Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said deleting voter rolls and requiring voters to re-register would “reflect” the inherent injustices of the current system.
“Over time, the people who are most likely to be registered are often the most educated, wealthy and older,” Borick said. “They will most likely be the first to re-register if the need arises. Individuals who are least likely are those who are harder to enroll and perhaps … have taken incredible effort and even years over time to get them into the system.”
DO DEAD PEOPLE VOTE?
Sometimes voters die between mailing a ballot and the count. Pennsylvania counties are to be notified twice a month of deaths by the state so they can remove those names from voter rolls.
Meanwhile, a handful of people were caught voting on behalf of a dead relative in Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election — nowhere near the numbers needed to have an impact on the election result.
ARE THERE SPIRIT CHOSEN?
If there are ghost voters on Pennsylvania’s lists, it’s unclear who or where they are.
Someone registering to vote must swear they are a US citizen and are asked to provide either a driver’s license number or a social security number. Someone who does not have either of these must still present identification that complies with Pennsylvania law at the first election.
One of Mastriano’s colleagues, Republican Senator Cris Dush, quoted ghost voters issue a subpoena to state election officials Last year he requested detailed voter registration records.
Dush has yet to issue a report or provide evidence of ghost voters.
Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at twitter.com/timelywriter.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/02/explainer-can-pa-gop-candidate-make-voters-re-register/ Can the candidate of Pa. GOP getting voters to re-register?