State Watch

Pennsylvania secretary of state resigns over ballot initiative error

Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) said she will step down at the end of the week after her office failed to properly advertise a proposed constitutional amendment to expand the civil lawsuit window for alleged child sexual abuse victims.

The amendment would have given plaintiffs two years to file civil lawsuits, according to The Wall Street Journal. State law requires proposed amendments to first pass the state legislature during consecutive sessions before they are put directly to voters as a ballot initiative.

The Pennsylvania Department of State is required by law to place newspaper ads outlining any such proposed amendments.

While lawmakers passed the measure the first time in 2019 and were poised to pass it again in 2020, the state agency failed to place the ads, according to the newspaper. This means the amendment process must start from the beginning unless lawmakers pass a bill creating the same two-year opening.

“The delay caused by this human error will be heartbreaking for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual assault, advocates and legislators, and I join the Department of State in apologizing to you. I share your anger and frustration that this happened, and I stand with you in your fight for justice,” Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who announced Boockvar’s resignation, said in a statement.

The Department of State on Monday also apologized for the oversight, calling it the result of “simple human error” in a statement. Boockvar was appointed by Wolf in January 2019 after previously serving as a senior adviser to the governor on modernizing election procedures.

Other states, including New York, have similar laws on the books, which have prompted a series of lawsuits against institutions including the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D), a backer of the measure who has himself alleged sexual abuse by a priest as a teenager, said there is still a chance the proposal could make the May primary election ballot.

“I’m just shocked this has happened, but we persevered for all these years and we will continue to do just that. I will not give up the fight until this gets done, period,” he told the Journal.

Tags ballot initiative Child sexual abuse election officials Kathy Boockvar Pennsylvania Tom Wolf

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