By District Attorney Ryan Sayers
2023 Vol. 20
This week I am going to take a break from the current discussion about police investigations and instead talk about the role of the District Attorney in regards to elections.
Contrary to popular belief, the District Attorney and law enforcement are not the primary contact in regards to suspected election law violations.
Election law issues are to be initially handled by the County Board of Elections. In most years in a county of our size, the three County Commissioners are the Election Board.
However, when the Commissioners are on the ballot (like this year), then the President Judge appoints three individuals to serve as the Election Board.
If an issue is referred to the Election Board and they believe that the action is in violation of the election laws in Pennsylvania, then the board will refer it to the District Attorney.
These types of matters include but are not limited to voter intimidation, assault at a polling location, voter fraud, unlawful interference with voting and forging/tampering/destroying ballots.
Once that referral is made, then the DA will assign the matter to a law enforcement agency to investigate the claim and provide additional information to the DA so that he/she can make an appropriate prosecutorial decision.
Just like any other crime, the Commonwealth has to be able to prove that the action does violate election law and that the violation occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.
If there is sufficient evidence of a crime, then the individual(s) will be criminally charged and handled like any other criminal matter.
It is worth noting that, generally speaking, violations of the state ethics statutes would not fall under the purview of the District Attorney.
Instead, potential ethics violations would go to the State Ethics Commission, and then there might be a potential referral for prosecution from that investigation.
Next week, we will go back to our discussion as to different aspects of police investigations.
Ryan Sayers is the elected District Attorney of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
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