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Pennsylvania GOP Election Reform Bill Would Require Voter ID

House Republicans proposed a bill that would make several changes to state elections. While some of the provisions may receive bipartisan support, others, like requiring voter ID, are likely to get pushback from Democrats.

(TNS) — Pennsylvania House Republicans unveiled their election reform bill Thursday that includes processing of mail-in ballots before Election Day and voter identification requirements.

Introduced by state Rep. Seth Grove, R- York County, following a series of hearings by the House State Government Committee, which Grove chairs, the 149-page Voting Rights Protection Act would make sweeping changes to the state's elections if it can get out of the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by a wary Gov. Tom Wolf, who vowed on Wednesday to protect Pennsylvanians' voting rights.

"This responsible bill includes all aspects of issues brought before the committee and will propel Pennsylvania's election into the 21st century, all while fixing fatal flaws and election security issues," Grove said in a statement released by the House GOP Caucus.

The 10 State Government Committee hearings were derided by Democrats as unnecessary and meant to sow doubt on the legitimacy of President Joe Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump in the state.

On Wednesday, Wolf and other Democratic officials held a news conference in which they criticized calls to audit Pennsylvania's election results, as Arizona Republicans are doing in that state.

Wolf also promised to veto any legislation that curtails voting rights.

"I will stand up for our freedom to vote," he said.

The bill allows counties to begin pre-canvassing, or processing, mail-in ballots five days before Election Day. Currently, counties can only start at 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Last year, Republican lawmakers, amid wrangling with Wolf, ignored bipartisan calls from county officials to give them more time to pre-canvass ballot or face delays in tallying results. That is exactly what occurred, and those delays served as kindling for the conspiracies still being spread by Trump and other Republicans.

Recently, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania asked the Legislature to extend the mail-in ballot application deadline and give counties more time to pre-canvass ballots.

Besides giving more time for pre-canvassing, the bill would:

— Allow for early in-person voting starting in 2025

— The correcting of "non-fatal defects" on mail-in ballots, such as unsigned or undated ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day

— Give counties the option to use mail-in ballot drop boxes during specific times and locations

— Set the last day to register to vote 30 days before an election

Some of those could be acceptable to Democrats, but other changes offered in the bill are certain to draw opposition, such as voter identification cards and regular election audits, which Democrats say are already done by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Republicans last tried to implement a Voter ID in 2012 under then-Gov. Tom Corbett, but it was blocked by a state court from being enforced in that year's presidential election.

Other changes in the bill include:

— Improving election uniformity among the 67 counties

— Enhancing certification processes for voting machines

— Requiring signature verification for mail-in and absentee ballots via scanning equipment

— Improving voter registration lists.

The House Republican statement did not specify what "improving" election uniformity or voter registration lists actually entails.

House Speaker Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County pledged that the bill, if law, would give Pennsylvanians faith in their elections.

"Our caucus ensured the state tracked the impacts of our evolving election law in 2019 and 2020, and today we see those efforts brought to fruition in this important and thorough legislation by Chairman Grove," said

What Cutler did not address is that Republican lawmakers have continued to foment distrust in the election results based on Trump's accusations, which began before the state's election results were even finalized, particularly about the 2.6 million mail-in ballots cast.

And eight of Pennsylvania's nine Republicans in the U.S. House delegation voted to reject certifying their own state's electoral college results.

Wolf's Wednesday press conference was in response to state Sen. Doug Mastriano's trip with other GOP state legislators to Arizona to review the partisan audit there, after which Mastriano, R- Franklin County, a likely governor candidate, called for a similar audit in Pennsylvania.

Grove has said he does not support an audit in Pennsylvania, but some state senators have said they would back that effort.

Ray Murphy, the state coordinator for Keystone Votes, a nonpartisan coalition working to modernize the state's election system, said in a statement that Grove's hearings showed there is bipartisan support to allow more time for pre-canvassing and to give counties more technology to hold elections, and that's where the focus should be.

"It's disappointing that proven reforms like same-day voter registration are excluded from this proposal, and it's troubling that measures like Voter ID, which would erect even more barriers to our freedom to vote, are included," Murphy said.

"The push to roll back the voter registration deadline is worrisome and most certainly will disenfranchise voters," he said. "In 2020, within the 15-day period that this bill would cut, there were 12,755 Democrats and 18,583 Republicans who registered for the first time."


(c)2021 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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