After months of study, lawmakers face election law decisions
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A monthslong review of state election law by Pennsylvania representatives has wrapped up, but leaders said Wednesday it’s unclear what changes, if any, might be enacted for the November election.
There are many ideas floating around, but House State Government Chair Seth Grove declined to say what legislation he favors, instead hoping talks with Gov. Tom Wolf and his Democratic allies in the Legislature will bear fruit.
“Right now we’re looking to negotiate,” said Grove, R-York.
He cited the more than 100,000 provisional ballots needed last year, when no excuse vote-by-mail was implemented for the first time, and a wave of county elections directors quitting as evidence that the system needs to be repaired.
County commissioners of both parties generally support being given more time to process ballots ahead of the election day, along with other changes in the strict timelines that govern Pennsylvania voting.
They also want more financial support for training, electronic poll books and other upgrades.
Rep. Margo Davidson of Delaware County, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said her members will not support changes they see as suppressing votes. Implementation of a voter ID system, she said, would have to include free identification as well as flexibility regarding types of ID.
She called elimination of mail-in voting a non-starter, and expressed doubt that changes can be adopted in time for the November general election.
“We should have started this a long time ago,” Davidson said.
Grove said he hoped to get a bill done by the end of June, the time every year when lawmakers leave Harrisburg for the summer.
Davidson said she was concerned the majority Republicans may try to insert election-related changes into other legislation, disguising the effect and leaving Democrats to either support them or vote against popular companion measures.
A list of findings from the 10 hearings that involved more than 50 testifiers included a need for better training and uniformity in a state where counties run the nuts and bolts of voting.