Kathy Boockvar Becomes Unlikely National CelebrityNovember 27, 2020
Under normal circumstances, Secretary’s of State’s for states are under-heralded positions. The occupant of those offices – sometimes elected, sometimes appointed – usually goes unnoticed.
Of course, these are not normal times.
Over 95 million Americans have voted early or by mail this year, there is more scrutiny than ever on how elections are being conducted. This scrutiny has been amplified by the repeated attacks of President Donald Trump on the legitimacy of the election system and the vote by mail ballots that have been utilized by so many. Nowhere is this more the case than in Pennsylvania, which recently rolled out a vote by mail system and is now using it for the first time in a general election. Such a role has thrust Boockvar into the spotlight in a way that previous Secretaries of State have never faced before.
In a recent profile article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Boockvar’s career and surprisingly active tenure were reviewed. Boockvar, who had previously served as an election modernization officer to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, was originally appointed as Secretary of State in order to oversee Pennsylvania’s transition to paper-backed ballots. These ballots were viewed as being safer and less susceptible to technological malfeasance than their digital counterparts.
In late 2019, the Pennsylvania legislature created a vote by mail system. The enactment of this system predated the COVID-19 pandemic, but Boockvar was then tasked with implementing Pennsylvania’s first major voting changes in decades. Then, the pandemic hit. Add in the non-stop critiques of President Donald Trump – including many that have been leveled at Pennsylvania specifically – and you have an explosive mix for someone who is still relatively new at her job.
In the interview, Secretary Boockvar said the state legislature’s delay of the April 28 primary to June 2 gave voters more of an option to vote by mail, and hundreds of thousands did. In the November election, more than 1/3 of the state’s nine million voters have requested to vote by mail, and as of the day before the election, nearly 80% of those ballots had been returned.
Boockvar first became involved in election law when, as an attorney, she helped a group of voters who were angry at the movement of a polling place. She took a job with the Advancement Project, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding voting rights. In that capacity, she eventually returned to Pennsylvania, where she worked regularly with the Department of State.
Secretary Boockvar noted that her goal has been to defend voters and voting systems against claims of voter fraud, noting that even judges appointed by President Trump have thrown out those claims. She also noted that incidents of in-person or mail-in voter fraud are extremely rare, and said that her main goal is to protect the integrity and smoothness of the election system.