GOP voting law bill clears state House amid Wolf veto threat

The state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

The state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A Republican rewrite of Pennsylvania election law that would mandate voter IDs, alter registration and ballot counting deadlines and give conservatives auditing procedures they have clamored for passed the state House on Tuesday despite the Democratic governor’s veto threat.

The lengthy and complex bill, crafted after 10 committee hearings on the subject earlier this year, was sent to the state Senate on a vote of 110-91.

Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware, dismissed its proposed security provisions by raising the specter of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by those who supported former President Donald Trump’s baseless efforts to reverse his re-election defeat.

“What a farce,” Davidson said. “We are advancing election security measures, so we say, by ignoring the facts and embracing actual fantasies.”

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Voters must have confidence that the system is fair, said Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland.

“We know that democracy dies in darkness,” Rothman said. “Democracy will die without trust in the process.”

The bill would establish a new county-issued voter ID that Rep. Tim Bonner, R-Mercer, said was not a burden or a way to suppress votes.

“These restrictions are so minimal that if anyone appears at the polling place on election day, they do not need to have any identification on them,” Bonner said. “They can simply sign a piece of paper saying they are who they say they are.”

But Democratic Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia described the bill as “voter suppression in bad drag. It pretends to protect voters while actually restricting voting.”

The registration deadline would change from 15 days to 30 days before an election, and mail-in ballots would have to be requested 15 days before the vote. Drop boxes for mail-in ballots would be limited to seven days before an election and have to be monitored by people designated by the major political parties.

Counties would get five days before election day to begin canvassing absentee and mail-in ballots.

The bill would make new rules for fixing problems on mail-in ballots envelopes, such as lack of signatures or dates. Counties would have to issue registration cards that in-person voters would have to show, and the process of mailing them out would be used to clean voting lists of dead or otherwise ineligible names.

The proposal includes signature matching procedures to verify voter eligibility and, starting in 2025, early voting six days before election day. There would be new procedures to help voters with disabilities.

It aims to speed lines at polling places and restrict the secretary of state, who oversees elections, to duties specified in state law.

There would be enhanced training and higher pay for election workers and state funding to help pay for elections. It would be easier for observers to watch votes being counted, although the bill includes new penalties for trying to intimidate an election official.

Gov. Tom Wolf, in a tweet, repeated his vow to reject the proposal, saying lawmakers behind it asked Congress to throw out the state’s November votes “and whose lies directly contributed to the Jan. 6 insurrection.”

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