Doug Mastriano: Running on a platform of deceit

York Dispatch editorial board
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, the Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, gestures to the cheering crowd during his primary night election party in Chambersburg, Pa., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

It’s ironic that Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is asking Pennsylvania residents for their votes, given how little value he places on them.

In fact, the second-term state senator is downright hostile to the concept of democracy, to judge from his words and deeds.

His efforts to subvert state voters’ will in the 2020 presidential election are already widely known. The parroting of Donald Trump’s lies that the election was stolen, the post-election tête-à-têtes with the president and his inner circle, the efforts to throw out election results and have stage legislators select Electoral College delegates, the contacts with the Justice Department, the Gettysburg “hearing”-slash-super spreader event, the busloads he led to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — none of these are the acts of someone who respects the will of voters.

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Now comes word that, if successful in his Pennsylvania gubernatorial bid, he will attempt to force state residents to re-register to vote.

There are a lot of words that accurately describe this idea — “cockamamie” leaps to mind, along with “unlawful,” “impractical,” “money-wasting” — but “necessary” is not one of them.

As usual, Mastriano isn’t taking questions from legitimate media to discuss or defend his proposal. But here’s what he told one of the compliant conservative outlets he favors: “We might have to reset, as far as registration, start that whole process over here. … 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 address.”

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He’s even beginning to create word salads like his hero.

As usual, the alleged rationale for this latest exercise in voter suppression is vague, overblown and would be left unaddressed by the purported solution. After all, as election security consultant Edgardo Cortes pointed out to the Associated Press, forcing the entire state to re-register wouldn’t stop voters from dying or moving.

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Besides, the National Voter Registration Act, which covers federal elections in 44 states including Pennsylvania, already outlines processes for removing voters from registration rolls (which, presumably would happen under Mastriano’s scheme if voters didn’t re-register). The reasons are limited: direct request of the voter, death, change of legal residence or, depending on state laws, mental incapacity or certain criminal convictions. (Pennsylvania bars imprisoned felons and those recently convicted of violating the state’s election code from voting.)

The act also requires states to contact voters who have changed their residence prior to removal, which would create a mountain of unnecessary work for Pennsylvania’s elections officials.

Even Pennsylvania state law is clear about mandatory re-registration: “If you are registered to vote, you do not have to register again in Pennsylvania unless you change your address, name, or political party.”

The concept of re-registering voters reinforces Mastriano’s illegitimate claims of voter fraud, but that seems to be its sole purpose. It is otherwise a dumb, unlawful and wholly useless idea.

Its one unintentional benefit is that it highlights anew Mastriano’s brazen disregard for free and fair elections, although this view has been on vivid display since the autumn of 2020. Talk of overturning the public’s will or impeding its right to cast ballots ought to be disqualifying for someone holding Mastriano’s current office, let alone the one to which he aspires.

There are many reasons not to support Doug Mastriano’s bid to become governor of Pennsylvania. His threat to force all state voters to re-register ranks among the biggest.