Oct. 29, 2019
Bill strengthens election security and access for Pennsylvanians
HARRISBURG – The most comprehensive effort to modernize and improve Pennsylvania’s elections since the 1930s was passed by the House of Representatives today. Senate Bill 421
establishes mail-in voting in the Commonwealth, gives Pennsylvanians more time to register to vote ahead of elections, and eliminates the straight-party ticket option from ballots.
“Straight-party voting is an antiquated practice that works to encourage voters to blindly choose a blank box at the top of a ballot,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “The vast majority of states removed straight-party voting years ago, believing the electorate has the right to choose people over party, and let their personal beliefs lead them in the voting booth, not just a one-party box.”
The legislation also provides the pathway for the state to provide $90 million in bonding to help every Pennsylvania county pay for newly required modern voting machines. Gov. Tom Wolf acted unilaterally to decertify voting machines statewide and required counties to obtain more advanced and secure voting machines that produce a verifiable paper trail with each vote. The Legislature moved to provide the funding in June; however, the governor vetoed that measure.
“Gov. Wolf’s action forced counties into a corner,” Cutler said. “Every county was required to come up with new machines regardless of their current voting systems. House Republicans responded in June and again today, hearing from our counties and providing more money than the administration asked for.”
Other modernization measures include allowing voter registration up to 15 days prior to an election, allowing all ballots to be received until 8 p.m. on election days, and establishing mail-in voting. The mail-in voting will work similar to the current absentee ballot system but would allow any registered voter to vote by mail, increasing access for all voters. Further, all mailed and absentee ballots will go to centralized locations, not to individual precincts, strengthening security and timeliness, and helping provide clear and definitive election results as quickly as possible.
“This bill was not written to benefit one party or the other, or any one candidate or single election,” added Cutler. “It was developed over a multi-year period, with input from people of different backgrounds and regions of Pennsylvania. It serves to preserve the integrity of every election and lift the voice of every voter in the Commonwealth.”
Previously established policies for members of the military and emergency voting remain in place. The legislation now returns to the Senate for further consideration.
Representative Bryan Cutler
House Majority Leader – 100th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Mike Straub