Common Cause Pennsylvania Urges Governor Wolf to Veto Bill that would Allow Partisan Poll Watchers to Come from Anywhere in Pennsylvania

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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed Senate Bill 573, which would allow candidates and political parties to assign partisan poll watchers to voting precincts outside their own communities and would unnecessarily increase the number of poll watchers allowed in each precinct. 

Under the Pennsylvania Election Code, poll watchers are empowered to make “challenges to an elector’s identity, continued residence in the election district, or qualifications as an eligible voter” — things that someone from outside the community would have no way of knowing – but are not allowed to interfere with the voting process. 

Common Cause Pennsylvania opposes SB573 and urges Governor Wolf to swiftly veto it. The Governor’s spokesperson said yesterday that he would “not sign” the bill – but did not commit him to vetoing it. 

Statement of Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Khalif Ali 

Throughout his term, Governor Wolf has steadfastly promoted voting rights and secure and accessible elections.  We thank Governor Wolf for his ongoing efforts to protect voters and urge him to swiftly veto SB573.   

There is no legitimate reason to allow partisan poll watchers to be assigned to polling places hundreds of miles away from their own residence. Currently, poll watchers assigned by candidates and political parties observe voting in their own communities to ensure that our elections run smoothly by discouraging bad actors, monitoring the in-person voting and ballot counting processes, and providing information to political parties and candidates.  Our elections work best when members of the community work together to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and all elections processes are followed. 

SB573 does not make our elections more secure or accessible. In fact, this bill gives bad faith partisan operatives from other parts of the Commonwealth the opportunity to challenge the eligibility of voters, make poll workers’ jobs more difficult, and disrupt the count of ballots. Any changes to our election laws should make our elections more secure and more accessible, not less.  

The brunt of the consequences of permitting out of county poll watchers would inevitably be felt by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander and other communities of color. These communities already face significant barriers to participating in our elections, and the additional threat (perceived or real) of interference by out-of-county poll watchers adds to their burden. We have regularly heard extremist partisans in Pennsylvania and nationally threaten to “raise an army” of poll watchers to go into predominately Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander and other communities of color to monitor elections. SB573 would make this possible.  

We urge Governor Wolf to stand with Pennsylvania voters and veto SB573.