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Gov. Tom Wolf Vetoes Election Bill With Voter ID Requirement

The governor has vetoed an election overhaul bill due to a voter identification requirement. Republicans believed the bill would have restored voter confidence, while Democrats said it decreased ease of voting.

(TNS) — As he said he would, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill to overhaul the state’s elections.

Wolf’s office announced he vetoed the bill Wednesday morning. Last week, the Republican-led General Assembly approved a wide-ranging bill to revamp elections, including a voter identification requirement.

The Democratic governor had said he was opposed to legislation that would require voters to show identification every time they went to the polls. The legislation also would have shortened the timetable for people to register to vote and to submit applications to vote by mail. Democrats criticized those elements of the bill.

“We believe democracy is important,” Wolf said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “We want people to be able to vote.”

The Voting Rights Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove, R- York County, emerged after a series of hearings held by the House State Government Committee. Grove, the committee’s chairman, said it would modernize the state’s election law and takes steps to protect voting rights while increasing accessibility and security.

The governor and Democratic lawmakers said the legislation would have essentially made it harder for people to vote. The legislation would have reduced the number of drop boxes in some counties - it would limit the number of drop boxes a county can have to one from every 100,000 residents. The legislation also included a signature verification requirement.

Republican lawmakers argued the legislation is necessary to restore voter confidence in the integrity of the state’s elections. Democratic lawmakers counter Republicans have sowed much of the distrust in the elections, in particular by asking Congress not to count the state’s electoral votes after the 2020 election. Wolf and Democrats say too many GOP lawmakers have undermined confidence by failing to recognize President Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in Pennsylvania.

Senate Republicans said the bill requiring voters to produce ID is far from the burden that Democrats claimed.

According to the bill, permissible forms of ID would have included a PennDOT-issued driver’s license or non-photo ID; a free durable, scannable voter registration identification card; or a free Department of State ID. If none of those are available, a voter could sign an affidavit affirming under penalty of law that they are who they say they are and are eligible to vote when they show up at the polls.
Recognizing Wolf was likely to veto the bill, Republican lawmakers are pushing an amendment to the state Constitution requiring voters to show identification at the polls. The Senate last week passed a proposed constitutional amendment giving voters the ability to decide whether voter identification should be required.

The constitutional amendment involves a lengthy process - it must be approved by lawmakers in two consecutive legislative sessions before going to voters for ratification. But it wouldn’t require the governor’s approval. While the amendment couldn’t be done in time for the 2022 congressional contests, it could be approved before the 2024 presidential election.

Earlier Wednesday, Wolf signed a $40.8 billion state budget that included more money for public schools and social service programs. Wolf and Democratic lawmakers held a press conference touting the budget and its support for the state’s poorest schools.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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