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After supporting vetoed PA voter bill, local lawmakers hope for workaround

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Both of the Adams County State representatives, Torren Ecker and Dan Moul, as well as state senator Doug Mastriano, all Republicans, joined with their majority party in the house and senate last week to pass HB 1300, a bill designed to reform elections in the state and which would also have made it more difficult to vote.

The bill was passed by both houses but immediately vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Ecker (left) and Moul (right)

The governor acknowledged some facets he viewed as positive aspects of the bill, though they didn’t outweigh his disagreements with other measures. “While this bill includes some election improvements that I’ve called for, such as pre-canvassing time, it’s riddled with voting barriers,” Wolf tweeted. “I took an oath to protect our democracy, and I will oppose any effort to limit Pennsylvanians’ right to vote.

“HB 1300 has a lot of good measures in it that every voter should welcome,” Ecker said via email. “Things like voter ID (which polling shows the majority of voters favor) and creating uniform election procedures that all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties follow will go a long way in instilling trust in our election systems from Republican, Democrat, and Independent voters alike. HB 1300 takes many steps to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, which should be the goal in every election.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Moul criticized Wolf’s decision to veto it, saying the bill contained compromises such as allowing early voting.

“It allowed drop boxes, but not drop boxes set up on street corners that anyone could get access to,” Moul said. “They’d be in controlled, secured areas. I guess the governor does not like controlled, secured areas… Voting is the one thing that separates us from other countries that are dictatorships or communist countries: our right to vote, and that is a cherished right that many men and women over the years have fought and died for. Anyone, I don’t care who it is, who is against measures to make our elections secure – I have to question what their motives are.”

“Voter suppression is a lie,” Moul said. “I mean, I don’t know how else– I call things the way I see them, but when somebody says that asking for ID is voter suppression, it is a lie. It’s a narrative they can fall back on for people that are less intelligent to believe. We have people that will believe this lie because they’ve been spoon-fed this.”

Moul said identification is required for other important activities such as flying on airplanes and opening bank accounts and should also be required to vote.

“Asking somebody to prove they are a citizen and a resident is not asking too much,” Moul said. “So when somebody says that’s voter suppression – we will give you free IDs in Pennsylvania. We will give them to you free of charge. If you cannot afford to buy one, one will be provided for you. I don’t buy into that voter suppression one iota. It is a narrative pushed by the left.”

Ecker and Moul said the next step would beto try to get the changes onto a statewide ballot referendum.

“If Governor Wolf and the administration are unwilling to come to the table to discuss widely supported election measures, we will use other mechanisms to trigger a ballot referendum in the future to allow voters to have the last say on securing our election procedures,” Ecker said.

Moul said putting measures on the ballot as referendums keeps the process more honest.

“You almost have to, because if these guys are going to use their corruptness to taint whatever we do, or change whatever we do, you have no choice but to take it to the people as a referendum for the constitution,” he said. “It takes the (Pennsylvania) Supreme Court out of it.”

The amendment cannot be added to the ballot until spring 2023, Moul said.

Among many other things, the 154-page bill would have:

  • Moved the voter registration deadline from the current 15 days prior to the election to a more restrictive 30 days. 
  • Turned each ballot return location into a “polling place” and limited the use of ballot dropboxes to 7 days prior to the election rather than the current 15. All returned ballots would have been required to be verified by partisan observers.
  • Required an ID to be presented each and every time a person votes. Mail-in voters would have been required to provide two forms of ID while in-person voters would be required only one form.
  • Required that each ballot’s signature be verified, but allow a window of just 5 days for voters to validate their signature if it is found to not match the signature on file.
  • Moved election audit responsibility from the Department of State to the Office of the Auditor General, a partisan elected official.

Senator Doug Mastriano and U.S. Rep. John Joyce did not respond to multiple requests for comments.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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  • I have posted here and other places, that while voter ID seems attractive in that proving who you are is commonplace. But, the rub comes in the type of ID which qualifies. If that ID is hard to get, or if few examples qualify, then voter ID is a barrier to voting, and any law erecting such a barrier should be struck down. If, on the other hand, the ID permissible, is easy to obtain, or has many types, then voter ID, while perhaps a slight pain, is reasonable. A favorite among the Republicans in earlier bills was to require the ID to have an expiration date, something that disallowed many forms of ID, such as a student ID. As long as the ID used to vote is easy to get, and includes several types, voter ID may have appeal to people. But, making it hard to get or narrowing the types allowable becomes voter suppression plain and simple. And, please keep your hands off mail-in voting.

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