HARRISBURG, Pa. — Calls to reform Pennsylvania's election process are increasing.
Republican State Representative Seth Grove from York County is urging the passage of the Voting Rights Protection Act or House Bill 1300.
Rep. Grove says the bill would increase voter access while also tightening election security.
Some aspects of the bill have bipartisan support. One piece, though, has many Democrats sayin 'no way.'
"All they want to do is silence our voices, and that's what they're trying to do right here in Pennsylvania," said Gov. Tom Wolf during a news conference last week.
Governor Wolf was adamant during the event. He used words such as unnecessary and undemocratic to describe the Republican-led effort to reform Pa's election process. He vowed to never support strengthening PA's existing voter identification law.
Currently, when voting at a polling place for the first time, people must show proof of I.D. with a photo or something else. For instance, people can show a driver's license, passport, military I.D., a current utility bill, a bank statement, or more.
If HB 1300 is passed, all voters would be asked to do that. The bill comes after what's been called the most comprehensive review of election law across all 50 states.
"We're really proud of it," Rep. Grove told FOX43. "10 hearings, over 50 testifiers, over 3 hours of testimony. We ended up doing a 100-page report, and we're looking at securing the system and increasing access for voters throughout the entire system."
“Over the first half of this year, through 10 hearings and countless hours of work, Chairman Grove and the House State Government Committee have conducted a thorough, comprehensive and nonpartisan review of our state’s election law and concerns raised by those involved in the voting process. This legislation is nothing short of an accurate reflection of the product of those hearings; concerns raised by local elections officials, statewide election administrators and citizens from across Pennsylvania; as well as legislative concepts supported in a bipartisan fashion by the House of Representatives in the past,” Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) said. “I look forward to continuing to work with all those interested in making Pennsylvania’s election laws a national model to get a product across the finish line and signed into law.”
Among many things, HB1300 would require election audits, secure mail-in ballot drop boxes with cameras, election workers, and observers, allow early in-person voting, create curbside voting for disabled voters, and require signature verification for mail-in and absentee ballots.
"The report clearly says we will not be repealing mail-in ballots. We will be adding security features back in, basically best practices from other states so signature requirement, that is a best practice from all the states who do mail-in ballots, including states like Colorado and Utah, that have the entire system based on mail-in ballots," explained Rep. Grove.
Among other things, HB 1300 would also require county election board websites to use a .gov domain address in an effort supporters say to ensure voters can trust those websites and limit the dissemination of misinformation.
"It would be a monumental task to try and implement all of this by November," said Lisa Schaefer, executive director of the County Commissioner's Association of PA or CCAP.
Schaefer says there are just two things counties want right now: more time to pre-canvass to avoid being overwhelmed on election day and to make the deadline to request a mail-in ballot application 15 days before the election instead of 7.
"We need, at the end of the day, 102 votes in the House. We need 26 votes in the Senate, and we need the governor's signature to get the bill done, and we're very concerned by adding all of these extra things in the bill, it's likely to hold up the process of getting over the finish line with the pieces we want," stated Schaefer. "Instead of improving our elections, it could actually hinder our elections because we're going to be straining county resources already dealing with the burden of Act 77."
The House State Government Committee will vote on HB 1300 tomorrow. Governor Wolf has vowed a swift veto even if it is passed through the House and Senate.