Pennsylvania Republicans proposed an overhaul of the state’s election system on Thursday with stricter voter identification requirements and mail ballot signature verification.
State Rep. Seth Grove—the chair of the House State Government Committee who acts as House Republicans’ point person for election legislation—introduced the Voting Rights Protection Act, House Bill 1300, after months of hearings by the House State Government Committee.
The legislation aims at transforming and improving Pennsylvania’s election process to restore the integrity of and trust in elections, according to a statement from Grove’s office.
The bill seems to embrace ideas from both the Republican and Democrat side and proposes comprehensive measures to change the rules for election including:
- Allowing early in-person voting beginning in 2025.
- Allowing unsigned or undated ballots to be corrected before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
- Giving counties the option to use secure mail-in ballot drop boxes during specific times at secure locations.
- Allowing mail-in ballots to be counted five days before an election. Current law allows the count to begin no earlier than 7:00 a.m. on Election Day.
- Requiring every voter to present a photo ID at the polls.
- Requiring signature verification for mail ballots.
- Eliminating the permanent mail-in voting list.
- Establishing a Bureau of Election Audits under the state Auditor General’s office. The newly-established bureau will have subpoena power and will regularly conduct election audits.
Most of the proposed rules in House Bill 1300 are based on a report published by the State House Government Committee back on May 10.
The report (pdf)—titled “A Comprehensive Review of Pennsylvania’s Election Laws: How Pennsylvania Can Guarantee Rights and Integrity in Our Election System”—identifies 25 aspects of the election process that needs improvements.
The bill is intended to fix the issues listed in the report. “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.
Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, a Republican, is supportive of the bill.
“House Republicans have consistently paved the way to more accessible, secure[,] and accurate elections,” he said. “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. Pennsylvanians must have faith in their elections and this bill is another piece of restoring the public’s trust.”
The proposed bill will likely be blocked by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, though Republicans control both the House and Senate in the state legislature.
“I will stand up for our freedom to vote. I will not allow bad actors to put up barriers to voting in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Not only will I veto any legislative efforts to roll back the freedoms Pennsylvanians right now have, I will continue to push for changes that expand our access to the polls.”
The Republicans may not have enough votes to override Wolf’s likely veto.
House Minority Leader Rep. Joanna E. McClinton told KDKA-TV that some parts of the bill may get bipartisan support but she denounced the idea of Bureau of Election Audits.
“We do not need a Bureau of Election Audits. One of the things I’m waiting for my colleagues across the aisle to do is end the big lie, which reeked so much terror and havoc and a deadly attack on our United States Capitol,” she said.
She also criticized that the Republicans cut off Democrats during the legislative process, saying the bill will reach an impasse at the executive branch.
“The thing that makes Democrats in the House relevant is that we have a Democratic governor. So in order for a bill to get signed, it’s best that we all collaborate,” McClinton said.
Wolf’s office and McClinton’s office didn’t respond immediately to requests for comments from The Epoch Times.