State constitutional amendment error spells the end of Kathy Boockvar as Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth
Boockvar’s resignation, which is effective on Feb. 5, has nothing to do with the drama surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
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When asked by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about the Pennsylvania process of advertising proposed state constitutional amendments in two newspapers in each of the Commonwealth’s counties ahead of an election, Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz called it “as ordinary as rain.”
Despite its regularity, it is what the Pennsylvania Department of State failed to do regarding a constitutional amendment that would’ve extended the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims to sue in civil court against their abusers.
As a result, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced on Feb. 1 that PA Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar would step down from her position on Friday, Feb. 5.
The amendment in question came about in response to two damning grand jury reports from 2016 and 2018 that unearthed decades of sexual abuse within Pennsylvania Catholic Archdioceses.
In the case of many victims, their abuse occurred during their childhoods and they’ve only just decided to come forward and file charges given both the government and press advocacy around the issue over the last few years.
If advertised, which needed to happen three months prior to the general election in 2020, and passed by Pennsylvania voters, it would have established a new statute of limitations at two years after the constitutional amendment was enacted for victims to file lawsuits.
Now, two more years must pass before victims can have a chance to do so at all.
Proposed amendments to Pennsylvania’s constitution must pass in two consecutive sessions of the state legislature before going to voters in a general election that elects members of the General Assembly — which happens every two years.
In his letter announcing Boockvar’s resignation, Wolf pinned the failure to advertise on “human error.”
“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,” he wrote.
The General Assembly was set to begin the process of passing the amendment for the second time this week before staffers at the Department of State realized the error.
Pennsylvania’s state legislature could still take up and pass a bill that would expedite the process, and Democrats are already in the process of proposing legislation.
However, Republicans in support of the amendment believe that it is the only way to ensure justice for the victims.
Before her staff discovered the error, Boockvar rose to national fame for upholding Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election results amid repeated attacks from former President Donald Trump and his legal team, which lost more than 60 lawsuits challenging the election results in states across the country.
In response to the error, Boockvar took to Twitter to issue a statement accepting responsibility.
“I’ve always believed that accountability & leadership must be a cornerstone of public service. While I was not aware of the administrative oversight until last week, the error occurred at our agency and I accept responsibility on behalf of the Department,” she wrote.
Veronica Degraffenreid, a special advisor to the Department of State on election modernization, will take Boockvar’s place as an acting secretary of the Commonwealth.