In Pennsylvania, the Department of State has allowed at least 249,000 unverified voters to receive mail-in ballots for the 2022 general election, owing to an odd process for verifying the identity of those requesting mail-in ballots, where people vote first and verify their identification later.
The Department of State also recently changed directives for county election boards, creating procedural confusion and drawing fire from 15 Pennsylvania House members in the form of a letter (pdf) demanding that the department immediately correct its guidance and tell counties they may not count the ballots of unverified voters until proof of ID is received.
There are two things to know about voter registration. First, the state must follow the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), a law that requires anyone registering to vote in federal elections to provide identification in the form of a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. And second, HAVA requires that states verify the accuracy of the information provided by the applicant by matching their ID information to the state motor vehicle database or the federal Social Security number verification system.
But in Pennsylvania, the state has passed the work of ID verification on to the counties. Here’s the order of the ID verification process in Pennsylvania for mail-in ballots:
- A registered voter requests a mail-in ballot. The application requires a driver’s license number or the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number.
- The voter’s identification is verified by comparing numbers on the ballot application to records at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or the Social Security Administration.
- If the ID numbers don’t match, a ballot is mailed to the voter anyway, but it comes with a “non-verified” (NV) designation.
- Unverified voter casts ballot.
- While processing ballots, the county sets aside NV ballots until they can reach out to each unverified voter and get proof of ID.
So, instead of the state verifying voter ID before sending a ballot, counties must separate NV ballots and verify identification before counting the votes on that ballot.