In violation of federal and state voting laws, Republican Doug Mastriano wants commonwealth voters to re-register in an attempt to “get it right” before the 2024 presidential election.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano wants to make Pennsylvania voters re-register if they want to cast a ballot in the next presidential election.
Mastriano pitched re-registration both before and after the May primary election as a necessary step to scrub the voter rolls of dead voters and ghost voters—voters registered to nonexistent addresses—in time for the 2024 presidential election.
Mastriano is a conspiracy theorist, election denier, and far-right Republican who earned former President Donald Trump’s endorsement for governor. He organized bus trips to the Trump rally that led to the deadly riot at the US Capitol, and was subsequently subpoenaed by the US House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection (he has finally agreed to meet with the committee).
He also launched a “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election last July, only to be removed from leading it after disputes over how to run it. He continues to promote Trump’s lies about the election and has pushed for the results to be overturned.
In a gubernatorial primary debate in April, Mastriano said that, if elected, he would require voters to re-register, saying “We’re going to start all over again.”
Pennsylvania is one of a few states where governors appoint a secretary of state who oversees elections. The 2020 presidential election proved how crucial the role is—they can either stand up against illegal election interference or aid right-wing conspiracies in undermining democracy.
“I get to appoint the secretary of state, who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything,” Mastriano said during a March 30 appearance on WPIC’s Eric Bombeck radio show. “I could decertify every machine in the state with the stroke of a pen via my secretary of state.”
In an interview with the conservative television network Newsmax three days after the primary election, Mastriano suggested that it is a step that his appointed secretary of state can take without approval by the Legislature.
“We might have to reset, as far as registration, start that whole process over here,” Mastriano said. “There’s still a lot of dead people on the rolls, and what have you, and there’s ghost phantom voters that we found, as well, at various addresses.”
If he is elected, Mastriano said, making Pennsylvania voters re-register, along with other actions regarding voting, would be of the utmost urgency: “So we’re going to take that very seriously and move really hard. Basically we have about a year to get that right before the 2024 presidential election.”
Is Mastriano’s Plan Legal?
According to legal scholars, Mastriano’s idea to make voters re-register flatly violates federal law and may conflict with state law and constitutional protections. It is also a throwback to laws designed by white people in past eras to keep Black people or newer European immigrants from voting.
Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said purging the voter rolls and requiring voters to re-register would “mirror” the inequities inherent in the current system.
“Over time, the people most likely to get registered are often the most educated, most wealthy, older individuals,” Borick said. “They will most likely be the first to re-register if required. People that will be least likely are the ones who are harder to get to register and maybe … over time took an incredible effort and even years to bring them into the system.”
Requiring voters to re-register is barred by the National Voter Registration Act, at least for federal elections.
“No, a state couldn’t just unilaterally require everyone to re-register for federal elections,” said Edward Foley, a law professor at The Ohio State University who directs the school’s election law program.
Pennsylvania law states that no registered voter can be required to register again while they live at the same address.
The National Voter Registration Act allows states to remove voters from rolls at a person’s request and requires states to make a “reasonable” effort to keep voter registration lists free of people who died or moved away.
But it also restricts the power of states to unilaterally purge voter rolls.
Under Pennsylvania law, that means 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.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.