Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf confirmed on Monday that embattled Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar will resign, effective Friday, after her agency failed to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment that affects survivors of sexual abuse.
Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, said the department is “immediately instituting” new controls to prevent similar mistakes from occurring again. He also has asked for an inspector general’s review.
“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,” Mr. Wolf said in a statement. “I share your anger and frustration that this happened, and I stand with you in your fight for justice.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the failure of Ms. Boockvar’s department “shameful.”
“Too many institutions have failed survivors of sexual abuse for far too long, and I am determined for that disgraceful streak to end and to make sure justice is no longer denied,” Mr. Shapiro said. “I urge the General Assembly and governor to do what many states have already done and let Pennsylvania survivors have their day in court as soon as possible by passing this final reform into law.”
Ms. Boockvar, who was criticized by then-President Trump last year for authorizing changes to election law regarding mail-in balloting without the approval of the legislature, said she must be accountable for the error.
“I’ve always believed that accountability and leadership must be a cornerstone of public service,” she said in a statement. “While I only became aware of the mistake last week, and immediately took steps to alert the administration to the error, I accept responsibility on behalf of the department.”
The governor said her resignation is not related to the election controversy over expanded mail-in balloting.
“This change at the Department of State has nothing to do with the administration of the 2020 election, which was fair and accurate,” Mr. Wolf said.
Ms. Boockvar’s department did not advertise as required a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would create a two-year window for lawsuits by survivors of child sexual abuse who have “aged out” of the statute of limitations for suing. The error means that voters will not be able to decide on the issue until spring 2023 at the earliest.
The proposed constitutional amendment was recommended in 2018 by a statewide grand jury that investigated the cover-up of decades-old claims of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The legislature approved the two-year window in the statute of limitations in its 2019-20 session. But Ms. Boockvar’s agency failed to advertise the change twice as required, when it was approved by the House and the Senate, before it could appear on the ballot.
Mr. Wolf said he is proud of Ms. Boockvar’s service, citing her implementation of Act 77, which allowed for the first time all Pennsylvanians to vote by mail and to vote early.
“Thanks in part to Kathy’s leadership, Pennsylvania voters either cast ballots using modern voting machines or securely voted by mail for the first time,” Mr. Wolf said. “It is through her commitment to helping the counties administer a fair election that we can all have confidence in the accuracy and integrity of the recent election results.”
The governor will appoint Veronica Degraffenreid as acting secretary of the commonwealth. She was the department’s special adviser on election modernization.