By Jack Phillips
The Pennsylvania state House on Tuesday night approved a Republican-backed election reform bill that would include a requirement that voters present identification, among other measures relating to polls, audits, and procedures.
The bill passed mostly along partisan lines, with most Republicans supporting the measure and nearly all Democrats opposing it. The bill heads to the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf has said several times that he will veto any election-related bill. On Tuesday, Wolf wrote on Twitter that he wouldn’t sign the measure, saying, “I will veto this bill if it reaches my desk in its current form.”
In touting the bill, House Republicans said that it’s necessary to restore what they described as integrity to the election process in the commonwealth. Other lawmakers said their constituents had pushed them to vote on the bill.
“We want to ensure elections are fair and the outcomes reflect the will of the people who legally cast their ballots,” said Rep. Ann Flood, a Republican who is a co-sponsor of the legislation, according to WFMZ-TV. “This has been one of the top issues for people I’ve talked with in our district since I took office back in January.”
Others, including Republican House Speaker Bryan Cutler, characterized the bill as one that would restore Pennsylvania voters’ faith in the state’s election systems after a contentious general election last November. Specifically, Cutler argued that the bill’s provisions around audits would be a step “toward ensuring the public’s trust.”
And Rep. Craig Staats, a Republican, asserted that a number of county election officials had informed them that the state Legislature needs to act to bolster election laws in the state.
“In our hearings, the message we received from our county election officials was very clear,” Staats said. “They said, the system does not work, and they need help. The Voting Rights Protection Act would provide that help.”
Some Democrat lawmakers said they wouldn’t support the bill due to its voter identification provision as well as the bill’s proposal to mandate an earlier deadline for voter registration.
According to the bill’s text, it would also establish a Bureau of Election Audits, would include more processes around verifying voters’ signatures on ballots, and would force voting machine manufacturers to comply with more regulations. County officials, if the bill is signed into law, would have five days before Election Day to start canvassing for mail-in ballots, the text reads.
“Folks are really asking for free and fair elections, and they’ll embrace the current system that we have and make the appropriate changes that the counties are asking us to do in the Legislature. What we have now is a 150-page document that is a complete waste of time,” Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, a Democrat, said on the floor.
The measure, House Bill 1300, now heads to the Senate for consideration.
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