A native of Puerto Rico, Pedro A. Cortes, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, abruptly resigned from on Wednesday, just three weeks after his office came under fire to allowing thousands of ineligible immigrants across the state to vote. The announcement of his departure came in a “personnel update” from Gov. Tom Wolf (D) that did not specify the reasons for the resignation. Cortes also served as secretary of state from 2003 to 2010 under Gov. Ed Rendell (D).
A spokesman for the governor, J.J. Abbott, told the media that he had no explanation for the resignation. Cortes served as the state’s top election official.
Last week State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R), who chairs the House State Government Committee, joined 15 of his colleagues in a letter “to express our dire concerns” about the disclosure last month that legal resident noncitizens in Pennsylvania had been allowed to register as voters when apply for or renewing drivers’ licenses at PennDot service centers.
Metcalfe has sought to hold a hearings on the issue in advance of the November 7 general election. He was informed by telephone on Wednesday of Cortes’ resignation. He is still waiting for an answer to the questions posed to Cortes. Metcalfe said this week his committee is seeking to know why foreign nationals were put on the voter rolls before the general election in 2016. He had raised the question in October 2016 when Cortes was testifying before his committee. He told Philly.com “Cortes knew this was an issue.” Metcalfe added, “It is interesting that his resignation occurred within a week of our letter to him about this serious issue.”
The issue came to the forefront again in September when Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt with the discovery by his staff that 317 noncitizens had canceled their voter registrations in the city from 2006. Their data goes back to 2006 when Pennsylvania began using the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, which provides statistics about voters. Election officials, found that in Allegheny County there were 96 cases of noncitizens canceling their voter registrations since 2006. Then the Department of State found records of 1,160 canceled voter registrations listing ineligibility as a reason and said the issue was under review.
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