Voter fraud concerns drive hearing on Pennsylvania election rules bill

Proposed bill would develop a certification and poll worker training program, and standardize rules about drop box security and mail-in ballots.

Updated: March 30, 2022 - 1:16am

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A Pennsylvania Senate Government Committee invited a well-known opponent of voter fraud to testify at a hearing on a bill concerning election integrity and reform.

SB878, sponsored by Sen. David Argall, R-Berks/Schuylkill, would develop a voluntary professional certification and poll worker training program, standardize rules about drop box security and mail-in ballot requirements, and set rules for pre-canvassing mail-in ballots, among other issues.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, is in response to a Senate Special Committee on election rules.

“We plan on introducing a bill to implement some of the other recommendations that have broader bi-partisan support,” Argall said in a legislative memo.

More-controversial voting topics, such as voter ID, have been left out.

Election officials welcomed the proposed changes insofar as they are consistent and easy to understand.

“We want to be sure that any further changes to the election ... are clear so that we can implement them consistently and voters can ultimately have confidence in the election process,” said Lisa Schaefer, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

“We really do need further clarity in the law on counties’ authority to use drop boxes after questions were raised and litigated throughout 2020,” Schaefer said. But some questions on clarity remain, she noted, such as on identical requirements for polling places and drop boxes.

Also testifying was Gregg Phillips, who has testified in Wisconsin and other states raising the possibility of voter fraud in elections. Phillips received widespread media attention when he claimed millions of votes were fraudulently cast in the 2016 presidential election, but declined to provide proof of his claim.

Phillips, along with Catherine Englebrecht of True the Vote, presented cellphone GPS data on people passing ballot drop boxes and talked of the potential for ballot harvesting and voter fraud.

Phillips suggested the General Assembly should adjust election laws as necessary to clean voter rolls, make vote “harvesting” an illegal act (allowing someone else to drop off a voter’s ballot), prohibit the mass mailing of ballots, not allow private funding for election needs, and increase penalties for election-related violations.

Sen. Street was not persuaded by the GPS data.

“What this shows you is there were lots of people who were going past these boxes, it doesn’t necessarily show what folks were doing when they got there, right?” Street asked.

“Which is exactly why you need video” on the drop boxes, Phillips said.