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Year in Review: Department of State Protected Pennsylvanians, Improved Customer Service in 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortés announced the following accomplishments by the agency in 2016:

“This was a tremendous year for the Department of State (DOS), and we have many things to be proud of,” said Secretary Cortés. “We administered a fair, secure and accurate election, strengthened our efforts to investigate and prosecute charities fraud, and instituted numerous customer service upgrades for licensed professionals and registered businesses.”

Online Voter Registration Users Reach Nearly 900,000

During the 2016 election cycle, Pennsylvanians embraced Online Voter Registration (OVR). Thanks to the Department’s extensive social media efforts, by the time we reached the October voter registration deadline for the November presidential election, nearly 900,000 Pennsylvanians had used the OVR site to register for the first time or update an existing registration.

The Department continues to improve OVR.  Pennsylvania became the first state to introduce a digital signature upload feature to OVR so that all eligible voters can complete their voter registration applications entirely electronically. In June, DOS published a web API so that organizations conducting voter registration drives could leverage the ease of the OVR application and reduce the number of paper voter registration forms.

In March, the Department announced the launch of, a web-based educational voter toolkit as well as a series of in-person trainings held around the Commonwealth.  The toolkit is designed to allow organizations to “train the trainers” and inform voters about their voting rights under Pennsylvania law.

In the ongoing effort to modernize election administration, the Department also launched a text messaging service so voters could access voter registration and other important election information via text.

Safeguarding the Integrity of Elections 

During this highly publicized and contentious presidential election year, the Department was under immense scrutiny following allegations of potential voter fraud, voter intimidation and voting machine vulnerabilities. The Department continuously met and worked with stakeholders at the county, state and federal level to ensure the security and integrity of the November 8 election.  The Department also held a press conference in October to address concerns and present information regarding election administration in Pennsylvania and its 67 counties.  

In support of the DOS commitment to increase the accuracy of voter registration rolls, the Department joined the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).  DOS will use the ERIC data to remove duplicate records and voters who have died while confirming address changes for voters who have moved both inside and outside of Pennsylvania.

The Department also stepped up efforts to educate voters on their rights at the polls.  DOS published guidance on securing and configuring electronic voting systems, voter intimidation and rules in effect at the polling place. 

Protecting the Health and Safety of the Public

To better serve its licensees, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) launched the first modules of its new online Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) in October, greatly increasing efficiency and cutting down on initial licensing and renewal processing times.


DOS increased its oversight of all funeral directors and establishments by releasing a list of funeral establishments that did not renew their facility licenses by the February 1 deadline. When first published, there were 98 non-renewed licenses listed. By March 14, there were only two. The State Board of Funeral Directors also fined and revoked the licenses of the funeral directors and establishments involved in a particularly egregious Philadelphia incident. 

Protecting the Financial Security and Safety of the Public

The Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations (BCCO) published the updated “A Guide to Business Registration in Pennsylvania.” The Guide, which had not been updated since 2011, is now available in hard copy and electronically.

In 2016, every application for registration by a charitable organization was reviewed and approved before the 10-day deadline for automatic deemed approval.

BCCO continued to upgrade and improve its corporate filing system, the Statewide Organization Registration Database (SWORD). The efforts paid off with the Bureau consistently meeting its goal of processing filings in one day.

State Athletic Commission

The State Athletic Commission (SAC) regulates and monitors professional and amateur boxing, kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts and professional wrestling contests in the commonwealth. 

In 2016, the Commission hosted several high-profile national and international boxing matches.  In April, SAC hosted the PA Golden Gloves, an amateur boxing tournament, held in Harrisburg.  In July, DOS assisted with the historic boxing event, “Duelo del Siglo” (Duel of the Century), in which American and Cuban amateur boxers sparred on the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh.

MEDIA CONTACT:    Wanda Murren, (717) 783-1621


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