In the Pennsylvania governor’s race, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) and State Senator Doug Mastriano (R) will be competing for votes, and both have severely contrasting views on how elections in the state should be run.
Attorney General Shapiro has repeatedly drawn attention to his opponent’s hostility towards democracy. “When I launched my campaign for governor in October, long before we knew who I would be facing, I said that voting rights and democracy would be on the ballot here in Pennsylvania,” said Shapiro in a recent CNN interview.
The GOP candidate has campaigned on the idea of making Pennsylvania’s 9 million voters submit new voter applications and re-register to vote, a practice forbidden by federal voting law and which would likely lead to a lengthy legal battle.
Shapiro has stressed the dangers of Republicans’ election denialism, citing the January 6th riot and his opponent’s involvement. “What happened at the Capitol on January 6 is relevant,” he said. “Listen, my opponent was at the Capitol on January 6. He bussed dozens of people there. He marched to the Capitol,” referring to Doug Mastriano spending about $3,000 of his state senate campaign funds to charter buses of protestors to the Capitol. Later, video and photo evidence showed Mastriano crossing police barricades during the riot. According to a CNN source familiar with the matter, Mastriano was interviewed by the FBI last year about his plans around January 6th and the breach of the Capitol building.
Mastriano has fueled his campaign for Governor with election conspiracy theories. For example, he wants to eliminate “no excuse” mail-in voting and the permanent absentee list, ban dropboxes, and institute poll watchers with a “clear line of sight to view and hear” election workers and voters “at a distance of six feet or less.” Mastriano and other election deniers claim that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump, which is how he has been justifying his anti-democracy legislation proposals. No official nor institution has found verifiable evidence of voter fraud significant enough to influence the election.
One policy with perhaps the most potential to harm democracy in Pennsylvania is his power as governor to appoint a Secretary of State who “could decertify every [voting] machine in the state… with the stroke of a pen.” Mastriano has hinted that he has a candidate picked and “a team that’s gonna be built around that individual.”
In his first general election speech, Shapiro told an audience in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, “it sure as hell isn’t freedom when [Mastriano] tells you, you can vote, but he’ll pick the winner. That’s not freedom.”
Shapiro has noted that Mastriano “has made this notion of freedom central to his campaign,” but his opponent’s actions and policies say the opposite. “To me, it is a complete farce because what he’s really doing is saying, ‘I, Doug Mastriano, will define freedom on my terms and force you to live under those terms.'”
In contrast to Mastriano, Shapiro has been campaigning on expanding voting rights so that more Pennsylvania voices can be heard. His policies as governor will include vetoing any restrictions to mail-in voting, appointing a Secretary of State who will make voting resources available in different languages, establish automatic voter registration (AVR), and opening opportunities for same-day voter registration, pre-registration for young voters, and early in-person voting.
Under Shapiro’s AVR legislation, “an eligible voter 18 or older who applies for a driver’s license or state identification through the DMV would automatically be registered to vote,” according to his campaign website. Additionally, voters will no longer be required to register 15 days before election day, thanks to same-day registration.
Voters who will be 18 by the next election can fill out a form to pre-register, which is expected to increase civic engagement among young people. The campaign website cites an example where in Florida “turnout among young voters who pre-registered increased roughly 4.7 percent” after implementing a similar policy.
Shapiro’s campaign is intent on making voting more accessible while Mastriano’s seeks to challenge the integrity of our democratic elections.