Pennsylvania House passes ‘imperfect’ election reforms

HARRISBURG — House lawmakers in Pennsylvania advanced election reforms Wednesday with little bipartisan support, suggesting that Gov. Tom Wolf himself may not be on board either.

House Bill 2626 moves to the Senate for consideration after a vote of 112-90, with just four Democrats in support. Prime sponsor Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams, told the chamber the bill “addresses the major issues we know the Commonwealth will face in November.”

“It helps us get results on Election Day or as soon thereafter as possible,” he said. “I believe this is a balanced approach. While it may not make everyone happy, but it’s a significant improvement over current election law.”

The bill authorizes pre-canvassing of votes beginning three days before the election – a far departure from the 21 days Wolf and Democrats supported. The application deadline for mail-in and absentee ballots would also move from seven to 15 days before the election, with county officials required to begin sending ballots 28 days ahead of time.

“Whether voting in person, or by mail, every Pennsylvanian expects his or her vote to be counted accurately and securely, and they expect to know results in a timely manner,” said House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster. “I am once again proud to stand with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take further steps to protect and promote one of our most sacred freedoms.”

But the bill also effectively bans drop boxes, mandating instead that voters deliver their ballots to polling places, county election offices or courthouse on Nov. 3. Wolf said earlier this week he wants local officials to continue counting votes received throughout the week, so long as ballots were postmarked on Election Day.

“In Delaware County, we still have people who are afraid of community spread,” said Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-Delaware. “This should not be a partisan issue. We should be trying to ensure that everyone has a right to vote and do it safely. With all the issues with the post office lately, drop boxes makes that possible.”

Democrats also scoffed at the notion that the proposed reforms prevent voter fraud – something many described as a nonissue in Pennsylvania.

The Center Square reached out to the Wolf administration for comment on the bill, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.