Caution: partisan ‘reform’ of Pennsylvania elections

Anne E. Simmons, of Indiana, Pa., is president of the Indiana County League of Women Voters. Submitted photo.

By Anne E. Simmons

INDIANA – A measure in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives proposes to establish a “Select Committee on Election Integrity” composed of three Republican representatives and two Democrat representatives to investigate, review and make findings and recommendations concerning absentee and mail-in ballots before, during and after the 2020 general election.

The measure, House Resolution 1032, has been criticized as a partisan attack on the integrity of elections in the commonwealth.

Other critics call the measure an attempt to increase the apprehension and confusion of Pennsylvania voters and to cast doubt on the ability of Indiana County election officials and the Pennsylvania Department of State to ensure an accessible election with trustworthy results.

Our election officials in Indiana County — county commissioners R. Michael Keith, Robin Gorman, Sherene Hess, and Chief Clerk Robin Maryai — have worked strategically and tirelessly to ensure that our elections are safe and secure. Their communications with Indiana County citizens have been ongoing and transparent.

House Resolution No. 1032 is redundant. Existing legal structures include the following bi-partisan election-reform bills:

Act 77 of 2019: Provided options for Pennsylvanians to continue to vote in-person or, if preferred, to vote by mail. It also made voting more accessible and secure by addressing voter registration deadlines, mail-in voting procedures and new voting system purchases.

Act 12 of 2020: Legislative changes made in consideration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Act 35 of 2020: Analysis of June 3, 2020, primary election with recommendations to ensure a safe secure and accessible Nov. 3, 2020, general election; The Department of State provided a report on Aug. 1, 2020,with recommendations for legislative changes that have not been enacted, including the pre-canvassing of ballots and a recommendation of the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Elections.

 

MEMBERS OF the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Indiana County have made comments and recommendations regarding House Resolution 1032:.

  • Citizens of Pennsylvania want a clear and secure process for casting their ballots in this general election, especially considering the health concerns that the pandemic presents.  House Resolution 1032, in creating a Select Committee on Election Integrity, adds another layer of confusion to an already confused election season. 
  •  There is already a bipartisan body to review election law. 
  • The structure proposed for a Select Committee on Election Integrity is not non-partisan and will not ensure fairness in the evaluation of voting and the vote-counting processes.
  • Support the priority that counties themselves have expressed: the need for more pre-canvassing time. 
  • Propose a law that allows the counting of mail-in ballots ahead of election day so that voters know the results in a timely fashion.
  • Allow counties to pre-canvass mail-in votes in the weeks before Election Day.
  • Propose legislation to enable the pre-canvassing of absentee and mail-in votes in the weeks prior to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election day. This would include inspecting and opening all envelopes containing official absentee ballots or mail-in ballots, including the removal of such ballots from the envelopes and the counting, computing and tallying of the votes reflected on the ballots. The term “pre-canvassing” does not include the recording or publishing of the votes reflected on the ballots.
  • We need to make voting as easy and accessible as possible. If no other states with successful mail-in voting have the extra layer of “security” (the outer envelope), then we don’t need it either, especially if it risks invalidating someone’s vote.
  • The primary responsibility of the General Assembly should be to guarantee their constituents a fair election with few obstructive roadblocks (security envelopes required).
  • Mail-in voting has real public health benefits; please stop discouraging citizens from using this voting option.

 

MEMBERS of the League of Women Voters of Indiana County will continue to educate voters and increase voter participation and make every effort to ensure that our citizens vote safely and securely in Indiana County.

Editor’s note: On Sept. 30, state Rep. Cris Dush, R-66th, cast a party-line vote in the State Government Committee to advance House Resolution 1032. Rep. Dush’s district includes part of Indiana County.

—————

Anne E. Simmons, Ed.D., is president of the League of Women Voters of Indiana County, Pa., a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advocates good government.

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