Auditor General DePasquale Issues Audit of Voter Registration System, Calls for Changes at Pennsylvania Department of State

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said the Department of State must continue to work with counties to improve the accuracy of Pennsylvania’s voter registration records, based on an audit released by his office.

Conducted at the request of the Department of State, DePasquale’s audit of the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) found more than 50,000 cases of potentially inaccurate voter records.

“The Department of State must work harder to verify that registration records are accurate and up-to-date,” DePasquale said. “My audit team found too many instances of potentially bad data and sloppy recordkeeping that requires guidance from the state to help counties resolve issues throughout the year.”

Although Pennsylvania counties own voter registration records, federal law requires the state to ensure the data held by the SURE system is accurate and secure.

DePasquale said the Department of State does not adequately document that it regularly monitors each county’s work to verify data is entered correctly or that the system has enough tools to help prevent data entry errors.

DePasquale said his audit team reported the following key findings:

  • Weaknesses in the voter registration application process and the maintenance of voter records in the SURE system resulted in instances of potentially inaccurate voter record information.
  • Data analysis identified tens of thousands of potential duplicate and inaccurate voter records, as well as nearly three thousand records for potentially deceased voters that need to be verified.
  • A combination of a lack of cooperation by four county election offices and PennDOT, as well as source documents not being available for the majority of test samples, inhibited the ability to verify the accuracy of most records tested during the audit.
  • The Department of State must continue to implement leading information technology security practices and information technology controls to protect the SURE system and ensure the reliability of voter registration records.
  • Incorporating edit checks and other improvements into the design of the replacement system for SURE will reduce data errors and improve accuracy.

DePasquale’s team provided 50 recommendations to strengthen the Department of State’s policies and management controls. One of the key recommendations is for the Department of State to work with counties to resolve records management issues such as duplicate voter records.

“We found that different counties tend to approach this job in different ways,” DePasquale said. “Some counties review voter registration records for accuracy daily or weekly, but others perform reviews only occasionally – and that must change. The Department of State needs to provide clearer guidance to help counties ensure the accuracy of voter records.”

DePasquale noted that some of the issues his auditors found will be addressed by a new system that will replace the SURE system, which is now more than 15 years old.

“I’m glad the Department of State listened to our suggestions and added our ideas to its plans for the new voter registration system,” he added. “The new system will be stronger as a result of our work.”

DePasquale encouraged all Pennsylvania voters to check their own voter registration data online using the “Check your registration status” link at www.VotesPA.com.

He also urged the public to be alert to continuing efforts by foreign entities to influence our elections through the spread of disinformation and propaganda.

“Please resist the urge to further spread disinformation, especially on social media where it is so prevalent,” DePasquale said. “Before clicking ‘share,’ please take the time to verify the information by seeking out facts from trusted, reliable sources.”