Pennsylvania Lawmakers Find Common Ground in Some Election Reform Measures

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas:
August 17, 2021 Updated: August 17, 2021

While support for issues like voter ID is split along party lines in the Pennsylvania State House, there is bipartisan support for some election reform.

When the General Assembly returns to Harrisburg in September, the Senate State Government Committee will consider eight election reform measures through a bill supported by Republican state Sen. David Argall, committee chair, and Democratic state Sen. Sharif Street, minority committee chair.

The measures are recommendations from a report of the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, a bipartisan committee charged with reviewing all aspects of the 2020 General Election.

The committee examined security of the vote before, during, and after election day; the accuracy and uniformity of the election processes; the impact of the judiciary on the election process; the impact and role of the former Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in issuing interpretations, guidance and instructions regarding the election process, and the conduct of the election as a whole.

The Special Committee held public hearings examining best practices for election integrity and security with election officials from Colorado, Utah, Florida, Philadelphia, and Allegheny Counties. The committee also took an online survey for over seven weeks and received 20,251 responses from Pennsylvanians representing all 67 counties, with thoughts on how to improve election integrity.

These are the recommendations to be folded into one piece of legislation:

Pre-canvassing mail-in ballots: The report recommends counties be allowed to pre-canvass mail-in ballots at least three days before election day and not later than 8 a.m. on election day.

Tracking mail-in ballots: The report suggests allowing voters to accurately track their mail-in ballot through a barcode system.

Counting mail-in ballots: Counting mail-in ballots should be transparent and live-streamed for public viewing.

Application deadlines: Many county election officials requested more time to process mail-in ballot applications and requested changing the mail-in ballot application deadline to two weeks prior to election day rather than the current one-week deadline. However, the county election office could receive a mail-in ballot application by an applicant up until one week prior to an election. The proposed bill will move back the deadline to receive applications for ballots that would be mailed to a voter, although it will specifically allow voters to request a mail-in ballot in person at the county board of elections up until the current one-week deadline.

Elimination of permanent mail-in list: The committee heard much testimony about the “Permanent Mail-In Ballot List” creating a lot of confusion. The bill will propose elimination of the permanent mail-in voting list, requiring voters to make separate requests for mail-in ballots each election.

Real-time reporting of deceased voters: The report recommends voter rolls be updated monthly throughout the year, but then daily, starting two weeks before a primary or general election, and all voter rolls should be cross-referenced with the Electronic Registration Information Center, a non-profit organization that aims to help states improve the accuracy of voter rolls.

Drop boxes: Proper security measures including constant video surveillance.

Training election workers: If the General Assembly requires training election workers, they should ensure that every election worker is trained on proper procedure and election law before each election. The training should be easily available to ensure that all interested and qualified poll workers are able to work on election day. The Department of State should work with the counties to assist in these efforts. Such training should also include procedures that allow designated poll workers and political observers to view the counting process, which must be a completely transparent process. “Electronic monitoring of the counting process would alleviate concerns regarding any potential malicious activity,” the report said.

“My staff and I are meeting with elections officials, Republican and Democratic senators, and other stakeholders to finalize the language and introduce the bill,” Argall said in an email to The Epoch Times. “Senators Street and Boscola and I share a bipartisan goal: to make commonsense updates to our election code, as identified in the House and Senate public hearings on this issue earlier this year. My goal as the new Chairman of the Senate State Government Committee is to begin to correct some of the issues that plagued the last few elections in Pennsylvania, step by step, on a bipartisan basis.”

Democratic state Sen. Lisa Boscola is a member of the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform and one of the report’s authors.

Street said there are things Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and the people of Pennsylvania want lawmakers to work together and improve the voting process.

“We’re talking with colleagues to see what kinds of things we can agree on,” Street told The Epoch Times. “For instance allowing some level of pre-canvassing. That is something Republicans and Democrats think we should be doing. Also, making it easier to track your ballot like you track your package from Amazon. We believe there is consensus around that. I’m optimistic there are things we can get done together, and it will build momentum to do bigger things and actually get things done for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: