Election Law Reform

HOUSE BILL 1596

House Bill 1596 was passed by the House State Government Committee on a strictly partisan vote and is headed to the House floor. This legislation would amend the State Constitution to:

  • Require voters to show ID before voting in person or when requesting a mail-in ballot
  • Make the Pennsylvania secretary of state an elected position
  • Require signatures on ballots to be verified before a ballot is accepted
  • Prohibit third party organizations from funding election administration
  • Require the Pennsylvania auditor general to conduct audits of all elections
  • Make all ballots available for public inspections for at least two years

The Voting Rights Lab analysis of House Bill 1596 can be viewed here.

SENATE BILL 878

Senate Bill 878 is bipartisan and provides the following:

  • Three days of pre-canvassing
  • Tracking ballots
  • Live streaming of counting mail-in ballots
  • Deadline for applying for mail-in ballots moved back to 15 days prior to the election
  • Eliminating the permanent mail-in ballot list
  • Real time reporting of deceased voters
  • Drop box requirements
  • Uniform training of election workers

This bill is currently in the Senate State Government Committee. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania provided testimony before the Committee pointing out the principles that the League believes should be the core of any voting rights legislation. Click here to read the testimony.

HOUSE BILL 1800

House Bill 1800 is the same as House Bill 1300, which was vetoed by Governor Wolf on June 30.2021, with a few additions. This bill was voted out of the House State Government Committee on a partisan basis. The legislation has not been scheduled for a vote by the full House. Like HB 1300, the legislation is over 150 pages long. The League opposed HB 1300 and will likely oppose this legislation, but it has not issued a formal statement.

ACT 77

Act 77, the first major reform to the Pennsylvania Election Code in over thirty years, was passed by the General Assembly in 2019 with bipartisan support.  Act 77 provided for no excuse mail-in ballots, eliminated straight party ticket voting, and set standards for voting machines and election security, among other things. 

To learn more about voting under the current law go to:

votespa.com

Voter Toolkit links on this website

HOUSE BILL 1300 AND SENATE BILL 735

After the 2020 election, the General Assembly held hearings in the House and the Senate regarding the conduct of the 2020 election. The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee held a series of thirteen hearings on Election Law during the winter and spring of 2021.  The hearings covered such issues as the Department of State’s election guidance, the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system and other election information technology, audits, voter registration, voting machines, mail-in and absentee ballots, county election board operations and satellite offices, election integrity and accessibility policy, election laws and procedures in other states. Recordings of these sessions are available here.

At the conclusion of these hearings in June the House passed HB 1300, a 150 page election reform bill that did among other things:

  • Shifted voter registration back from 15 days to 30 days prior to the election
  • Established new Voter ID requirements
  • Limited return options for absentee and mail-in ballots
  • Provided for curing of absentee and mail-in ballots (i.e., voters would be notified of mismatched signatures and other deficiencies and provided the opportunity to cure the deficiency)
  • Raised pay for poll workers
  • Created many unfunded mandates that would burden counties

The text of the House bill is available here.

Along with the House Bill, the State Senate passed SB 735 that provides for a constitutional amendment to require Voter ID. The text of the Senate bill is available here.

Governor Wolf Vetoed House Bill 1300

The Governor’s veto is available here.

The Voting Rights Lab made a comprehensive report on HB 1300 pointing out the pro and anti voter provisions.

Pennsylvania League of Women Voters Opposes HB 1300 and SB 735

The Pennsylvania League of Women voters opposes both HB 1300 and SB 735.  Of particular concern to the League is the Voter ID requirements, pushing back the deadline for voter registration, and restrictions on ballot return locations.

The League’s statements on both bills:

https://www.palwv.org/news/lwvpa-response-to-election-code-bill-hb-1300

https://www.palwv.org/news/statement-from-the-league-of-women-voters-of-pa-on-sb735-and-hb1300

The Election Advisory Board and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Recommendations

The Election Advisory Board (ELAB) and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) weighed in election reform recommendations.

ELAB was created by the General Assembly in 2020 to review the implementation of Act 77 during the 2020 elections.  It is an 18 person, bipartisan board which includes members of the general assembly, county commissioners, county voter registration department officials, representatives from good government organizations, and attorneys with election law expertise. The report issued by ELAB recommended the expansion of the pre-canvassing time period to 14 days prior to the election. Pre-canvasing refers to the opening and processing of mail-in ballots without tabulating the votes on those ballots. Currently, pre-canvassing cannot commence until the morning of election day. The ELAB report is available here.

CCAP represents the 67 counties throughout the state.  CCAP studied the impact of the 2020 election on the operations of the county election offices. The CCAP report is available here.

The priorities listed in the CCAP report are:

  • Offer counties as much time as possible to begin pre-canvassing ballots to improve the likelihood of timely election results
  • Move back the deadline to apply for mail-in ballots to 15 days before an election

Other considerations, identified in the CCAP report, that were of concern to the counties include:

  • Counties seek clarity in the law on the County’s authority to use drop boxes for mail-in ballots.
  • Counties seek clear identification of what is considered a fatal flaw under which a mail-in ballot is not to be counted.
  • Counties seek clarity on curing of flaws in a ballot, and whether or not a county is required to contact a voter to cure their ballot.
  • Counties seek improvements in the SURE system and ballot tracking website.
  • Counties seek that Department of State Guidance to counties be issued with sufficient lead time for implementation.
  • Counties request that necessary resources be provided to counties to implement Election code requirements.