Pennsylvania House and Senate Committees Consider Proposals to Make Voting More Difficult

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This morning, both the House and Senate State Government committees will hold voting meetings on bills that would make voting more difficult, particularly for Black, Brown and low income voters.

At 8:00 am, the House State Government Committee will hold a meeting where they will vote on HB 1300, which would

  • create a new “Bureau of Election Audits” supervised by a partisan elected official, the state Auditor General
  • require new voters to register to vote at least 30 days before Election Day, rather than 15
  • eliminate the permanent mail voting list and instead require voters to apply for a mail ballot for each election
  • force voters to request mail ballots at least 15 days before Election Day, rather than seven
  • limit the use of ballot return drop boxes to just seven days before Election Day, and require that drop boxes be staffed by two partisan “inspectors” to check the identification of everyone using the drop box to return a ballot
  • require signature verification for mail ballots, in addition to requiring voters to provide two separate forms of identification with their requests for a mail ballot
  • require every voter to present ID at the polls, every time they vote
  • ban counties from accepting private grants or donations to cover election administration costs

The meeting is scheduled to be streamed here. Written testimony submitted by Common Cause Executive Director Khalif Ali is available here.

At 10:00 am, the Senate State Government Committee will hold a meeting where they will vote on SB 735, a proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to provide personal identification when casting ballots. The meeting is scheduled to be streamed here

A 2014 study by the nonpartisan federal Government Accounting Office found that voter identification laws caused a drop in voter turnout of about 2% in the two states studied. The study found that three types of voters were particularly affected by turnout declines related to voter identification laws: voters aged 19-23; Black voters; and new voters, registered less than one year.

“Every eligible Pennsylvanian wants to – and should – have a say in deciding which people and policies will determine the future for our families, community, and country,” Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Khalif Ali said. “Pennsylvanians should have the freedom to vote without the types of barriers these proposals would create. Our government ‘by the people’ is stronger when more people participate in it.”

“We saw record voter turnout in November because of Act 77 and Act 12, which were both bipartisan bills. Our state legislature could use this session to extend its bipartisan legacy of expanding voting access. But instead, some legislators propose to follow the example set by Georgia and Florida of enacting laws that create new barriers to voting,” Ali said. “We know that a special interest group is coordinating many of these efforts around the country. But Pennsylvania’s legislators were elected to represent their constituents, not special interest groups.”

“HB 1300 in its current form will place multiple restrictions on the voting process that millions of Pennsylvanians have come to depend on. SB 735 is expected to lower turnout among Black, young and new voters. Common Cause Pennsylvania adamantly opposes both proposals,” Ali said.