Otten votes against SB 421, citing voter suppression and purge of voter rolls

SB 421 passed the House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be signed by Governor Wolf Thursday.

I voted against this bill because while I believe we should do all we can to make it easy for Pennsylvanians to exercise their right to vote, I am extremely concerned that this legislation will have the opposite effect, ultimately suppressing votes and creating confusion at the polls.

SB 421 contains the biggest changes to our voting process since the 1930s, and we're rolling it out with no money or time allocated to inform or educate voters. My colleagues and I fought to roll these changes out gradually or push implementation to 2021, but if the governor signs the bill as expected, all changes will be implemented before the primary election on April 28, 2020.

Most concerning to me is the required purge of the voter rolls, which must be completed and certified by party leaders before the April primary in order for counties to receive funding.

While periodic cleanup of the voter rolls is standard practice, I'm very concerned that

(1) this implementation schedule does not allow proper time for notification of voters, or for active voters to re-register if they are removed from the voter rolls in error,

(2) county funding for new voting equipment is tied to the completion of the purge, and

(3) the legislation requires the purge completion for each county to be certified by politicians rather than by the Department of State.

SB421 also eliminates straight-party voting, which is likely to significantly increase lines and wait times in many parts of the state, particularly urban areas with already-long wait times, with the likely effect of suppressing the vote in those areas.

My office will do all we can to inform voters about these changes and ensure that all eligible voters are able to vote in 2020.