Pennsylvania Republicans aim to make big election changes in constitution

Closeup of the Pennsylvania Capitol

File photo: The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, March 22, 2021. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania on Monday unveiled sweeping changes to the conduct of elections through a proposed constitutional amendment, the latest turn in a partisan power struggle over elections in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that last year’s presidential contest was rigged against him.

The Republican-penned measure passed the House State Government Committee on party lines, 15-10.

One provision would toughen Pennsylvania’s existing identification requirements for a registered voter to cast a ballot, both in-person and by mail.

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Another provision would make the office of the state’s top election official, the secretary of state, into an elected position with four-year terms. Currently, the position is a gubernatorial appointment in Pennsylvania.

As Trump allies go state-to-state pushing to “audit” last year’s presidential election, the measure also would require election results to be audited by the state’s auditor general before certification.

Also, it would require paper ballots to have a watermark to prove authenticity and be open to “public inspection” after the election is certified. Currently, state law does not make paper ballots a public record.

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To amend the state constitution, a proposal must pass both chambers of the state Legislature twice, once each in consecutive two-year sessions, before going to voters in a statewide referendum. The earliest this measure could see a referendum is spring 2023.

A governor has no veto power over it.

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