Pennsylvania’s anti-Trump secretary of state Kathy Boockvar resigning

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar took a lot of heat in the aftermath of the November 2020 election, as her state was at the center of former President Donald Trump’s legal team’s efforts to overturn the election results.

According to the New York Post, Boockvar has announced that she will resign due to her office’s mishandling of a Pennsylvania constitutional amendment that deals with the ability for child sexual abuse victims to sue their abusers. 

What happened?

Proposed amendments must be passed twice in the state legislature, and the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s office is required to publish a proposed amendment in two newspapers in all of the state’s 67 counties, ahead of the election.

Boockvar’s office failed to follow those rules, which essentially killed the proposed amendment that would have helped child sexual abuse victims hold their abusers accountable.

“I’ve always believed that accountability and leadership must be a cornerstone of public service. While I only became aware of the mistake last week, and immediately took steps to alert the administration to the error, I accept the responsibility on behalf of the department,” Boockvar said in a statement.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf also released a statement on the matter, stressing that her resignation was not tied to the fallout after the 2020 election, while adding that he was sorry about the “heartbreaking” news for sexual assault survivors.

“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,” Wolf said.

The amendment

The proposed amendment would have given sexual assault survivors a period of two years to file civil lawsuits against their abusers, according to The Hill. As noted, the amendment has to be passed twice and was, in fact, appropriately passed in 2019 — complete with the proper newspaper announcements.

But even though the 2020 version passed the state legislature, the failure to follow through on the simple requirement for newspaper publishing means that the amendment will have to start over from the beginning.

Similar amendments in other states have had massive impacts on large organizations. For instance, a similar measure in New York is what allowed child sexual assault survivors to file lawsuits against Boy Scouts of America.

There are reportedly some procedural rules that, if acted upon, could ensure that the proposed amendment still makes it to the ballot for the upcoming May primaries. Pennsylvania state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Democrat and victim of child sexual abuse, remains committed to making it happen.

“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,” Rozzi said.

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