Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for governor, says he wants to wipe the state’s voter rolls clean and make everyone re-register if they want to vote again.
Mastriano has repeatedly raised the dangerous idea on the campaign trail, both before he won Pennsylvania’s Republican nomination in May for governor and since.
Mastriano has pitched re-registration 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.
In a gubernatorial 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 on the conservative broadcaster 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 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, he said, taking that and other steps is 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.”
Only a handful of people were caught voting in the name of a dead relative in Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election — nowhere near the numbers necessary to have an impact on any election outcome.
Also, someone who registers to vote must swear that they are a U.S. citizen and are asked to provide either a driver’s license number or a Social Security number. Someone who cannot provide either one must still show a form of identification that meets Pennsylvania law the first time they vote.
Research also found that such laws also had a strong class bias and effectively suppressed the vote of working- and middle-class residents, in addition to minorities.
Political scientists said they knew of no modern-day research on such a law.
But 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, reports the Associated Press.
“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.”
Pennsylvania law says no registered voter can be required to register again while they live at the same address.
Legal scholars say Mastriano’s proposal violates federal law and is a throwback to laws designed by white people in past eras to keep Black people or newer European immigrants from voting.
Southern states, following Reconstruction, imposed annual re-registration requirements, with some of those laws lasting until at least 1971. The laws were regarded as one of the mechanisms used by those states to try to keep Black people from voting.
Still, if the idea were to go forward it could reshape the electorate in the presidential battleground state.
Reshaping the electorate for the 2024 presidential election and beyond is the point of Mastriano’s proposal.
Remember that Mastriano is perhaps the state’s most prominent promoter of former President Donald Trump’s lie that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election.
If Mastriano were to win the general election in November and becomes governor, he would have immense power over elections in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states where governors appoint a secretary of state who oversees elections. So a Mastriano victory in November would mean he could greatly influence whether laws meant to protect voter access to the polls can be undermined.