What there is to know
- Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers unveil sweeping changes in the conduct of elections through proposed constitutional amendment.
- This is the latest turning point in a partisan power struggle over elections following former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud.
- The Republicans-drafted measure was passed by the House state government committee on party lines Monday 10-10. This would strengthen current voter identification requirements in Pennsylvania, make the state’s top electoral official an elected office, require election results to be verified by the state’s auditor general, and return paper ballots. a public record.
Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers on Monday unveiled sweeping changes in the conduct of elections through a proposed constitutional amendment, the latest turning point in a partisan power struggle over the election following the former president’s unfounded claims Donald Trump that last year’s presidential contest was rigged against him.
The Republicans-drafted measure was passed by the House state government committee on party lines, 15-10. One provision would significantly strengthen Pennsylvania’s existing identification requirements for a registered voter to vote, both in person and by mail.
The newly unveiled wording comes amid months of partisan fighting over disputed or gray areas of Pennsylvania’s election law, as well as Republicans’ efforts to expand voter identification requirements, limit return options. ballots and investigate voting machines, ballots and more since last year’s presidential election. election.
In June, Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a sweeping Republican bill opposed by all but one Democratic lawmaker. With a Senate committee preparing to consider a narrower bipartisan bill, some of these contested provisions of the GOP partisan bill are found in the proposed constitutional amendment.
A governor has no veto power over it.
To change the state constitution, a proposal must pass twice through both chambers of the state legislature, once each in consecutive two-year sessions, before being submitted to voters at a time. a statewide referendum. The earliest this measure could see a referendum is spring 2023.
The measure would again require that a person voting by mail’s signature match their signature on file and would require a voter to provide government-issued identification each time before voting.
This would eliminate provisions in existing law that allow the use of government checks, paychecks, utility bills and up-to-date bank statements, as well as student and employee cards.
Voters are also required to show ID only when voting in a particular constituency for the first time, while postal voters are not required to provide photo ID when requesting a ballot. vote or insert a photocopy of an ID when sending their ballot.
Democrats vigorously opposed the toughening of the voter identification law, calling it an effort to suppress the right to vote and noting that there is no history of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
Another provision would make the office of the state’s top electoral official, the secretary of state, an elected post with four-year terms. Currently, the post is a governor in Pennsylvania.
Almost all states have a secretary of state, and the post is an elected post in three-quarters of them.
In Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers have vigorously opposed the way the secretaries of state appointed by Wolf interpreted state election law around last year’s election. These decisions have been confirmed by the courts on several occasions.
As Trump allies push state-to-state to “audit” last year’s presidential election, the measure would require election results to be audited by the state’s auditor general before certification. The Auditor General’s office was created as a fiscal watchdog.
Paper ballots should also have a watermark to prove authenticity and be open to “public inspection” once the election is certified.
Currently, state law does not make paper ballots a public record, and election analysts couldn’t think of a state that would, except Georgia, which this year has. made the scanned images of the ballots a public record and ordered the Secretary of State to create a pilot program to post the images.
If the intention is to allow physical access to the ballots, that access will need to be tightly controlled, with access recordings, observation and video recording in a secure facility to prevent and detect tampering, said E. Jonathan Sebes, CTO at the California-based OSET Institute, which is dedicated to research on election infrastructure and administration.
Yet even though the images of the ballots are posted online, they can be tampered with, Sebes said.
In the meantime, he said, a watermark is not in itself a sign of authenticity and may be impossible to put on every ballot. Foreign and military voters can print their own ballots, for example.
Audrey Kline, director of national policies at the Washington-based National Vote at Home Institute, said she had never seen a voting watermark in practice and that her organization did not see it as a best practice, mainly because that it is expensive.
Either way, voting styles are hard to tamper with, Kline said.