The Lead

Wolf nominates Veronica Degraffenreid as Secretary of State

By: - March 26, 2021 12:36 pm

Acting Sec. of State Veronica Degraffenreid testifies before a Senate committee on March 23, 2021.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that he would nominate veteran election administrator Veronica Degraffenreid to serve as Pennsylvania’s next Secretary of State, making her the official head of the agency that she’s been leading on an interim basis since February. 

Degraffenreid joined the Department of State last year as a senior advisor on elections, according to a biography provided by Wolf’s office. 

She has led the Department of State as Acting Secretary since February. Degraffenreid replaced former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, who stepped down after admitting that her staff failed to perform a critical administrative task to advance a proposed constitutional amendment to voters. 

As a special advisor to Boockvar last year, Degraffenreid helped counties implement the state’s new vote-by-mail law and protect staff and voters from COVID-19 during the contentious 2020 election cycle. 

Burnt out and beleaguered, county elections officials ask lawmakers for help ahead of this year’s election season

Her arrival in Pennsylvania followed two decades of work in election administration in North Carolina. 

In a Friday statement, Wolf called Degraffenreid “a nationally respected expert in election administration and the perfect person to lead the Department of State.”

Degraffenreid’s nomination must be confirmed in a two-thirds vote by the state Senate. 

If it is, she would serve as the state’s top election official through at least 2023, providing guidance and support to county officials as they administer this year’s municipal and judicial races and the gubernatorial election in 2022.  

The Department of State also oversees campaign finance and lobbying disclosures, as well as professional licensing for more than one million businesses and service providers. 

The Secretary of State has taken on outsized importance since the Legislature passed Act 77, the 2019 law that let all voters cast mail-in ballots and eliminated straight-ticket voting in Pennsylvania. 

The law marked the biggest change to Pennsylvania’s election code in decades. But county officials spent much of the last year asking lawmakers to amend it, saying the law lacked clarity on critical administrative questions and didn’t give them enough time to prepare ballots for counting ahead of election day.  

The technical aspects of the law came under fire one by one in 2020, as a barrage of lawsuits – many aimed at the Department of State – challenged its rules for collecting ballots and verifying their authenticity.

Boockvar was also the target of partisan attacks, and defended Act 77 in court and in the press as Pennsylvania gained national attention in the 2020 race. 

Election season court fights have cost Pa. taxpayers nearly $4M and counting

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.