Pennsylvania election integrity measures advancing through Legislature

Legislation would enhance the security of election ballots and remove deceased residents from l voter rolls.
Pennsylvania election staff

A trio of bills are working their way through the Legislature to enhance the security of election ballots and remove deceased residents from the voter rolls.

The House State Government Committee met on Monday to vote on House Bill 34, House Bill 143, and House Bill 2484, advancing all three of them past first consideration. The bills will need to get through three considerations before a final vote can be held.

HB34, sponsored by Rep. Gary Day, R-New Tripoli, would create guidelines to track election ballots during transportation.

“It will require ballots to be transported in transportation containers that are sealed with numbered plastic tags and have a Bill of Lading included with the shipment,” Day wrote in a legislative memo. “Generally, it will call for a hard plastic container, sealed by a numbered plastic tag to ensure the shipment has not been tampered with, nor added or subtracted from.”

Day proposed the bill to “let voters feel like there are more protections,” he said.

An amendment to the bill, which would allow registered independent voters to vote in Democratic or Republican primaries, was proposed by Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia, but failed.

“It would allow over 1.2 million Pennsylvanians who are currently shut out of our election system – to give them the ability to vote. That is all this amendment does,” Solomon said.

Day cited an instance where “hundreds of ballots” in a precinct in his district would not have been counted due to a missing USB drive that was found after he noted a discrepancy between the number of counted votes in the precinct and the voting totals Day had predicted.

“We need to be very, very careful even as we strengthen security around our election to not infer that our elections currently are not safe,” said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia. “I think that they are; if we can do something even better … sign me up for that.”

A similar rationale for making elections more efficient was proposed by Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, with HB143. The bill would require the Department of Health and Department of State to collaborate monthly to remove deceased individuals from state voter rolls. Currently, removal can take up to three months.

“A more efficient process of cleaning up our voter rolls will not only eliminate future lawsuits, but also further safeguard the integrity of our elections,” Diamond wrote in a legislative memo.

He noted the law is modeled on the Department of Aging’s approach to removing deceased individuals from solicitation for state benefits.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, the committee chairman, emphasized the importance of cleaning voter rolls, noting the commonwealth was sued over having 21,000 deceased individuals on them previously.

“Anything we can do to continue to clean that up would be a positive thing,” Grove said.

The committee also passed HB2484, sponsored by Rep. Lori Mizgorski, R-Allison Falls, to require write-in candidates to file a statement of financial interest during an election. Currently, candidates of a political party are required to, but the law left out write-in candidates.

“I believe that every candidate should be treated the same,” Mizgorski said.