Defending democracy means enabling participation for all voters

Pa. should focus on recommendations to lift barriers to the ballot box, allow for pre-canvassing

HARRISBURG, April 1 – In its first three months of 14 planned public hearings on Pennsylvania’s elections process, testifier after testifier told members of the House State Government Committee the state should make it easier for Pennsylvanians to access the ballot box, not harder, according to the committee’s Democratic chair, Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware.

According to Davidson, Republicans on the committee are still using each public hearing to peddle false claims of fraud and sow doubt in the 2020 election on behalf of former President Trump. She said testifiers to date have refused to participate in their theater and instead have focused their testimony and answers on ways in which the state can provide modern resources to county election officials to help with accuracy and efficiency and improve access to voting for all Pennsylvanians, especially for people whose votes are now being threatened by new laws and proposals to suppress votes, like Georgia’s new law to prohibit water being offered to people waiting in long lines to vote.

“When states started to remove race and class-based barriers to voting, people voted. We saw record turnout across the country in 2020 with mail-in voting, early voting, same-day registration and ballot drop boxes, which is a very good thing,” Davidson said. “The process largely worked. But because it didn’t work out for Trump and his followers, voter suppression is again rearing its ugly head, across the country and right here in Pennsylvania.

“The hearings our committee has held to date have shown that people are no longer willing to engage in false claims but want to move forward with ideas to ensure a voting process that is secure and easy to access. Unfortunately, the significant time and taxpayer resources the committee has spent on these hearings has made us lose precious time, time that could and should have been spent providing legislative fixes for known issues, like the need for pre-canvassing, funding for county election operations and more executable timelines for the election process. As a result, we did not provide county election officials with what they actually need in time for the May primary.”

Davidson said House Democrats this week re-launched their plan to defend democracy, proposals that would lift barriers to the ballot box and make it easier for people to lawfully and securely cast their vote. She said testimony received during the first seven State Government Committee hearings makes clear that both county election officials and voter advocacy groups believe in the same.

Testimony received today from Ray Murphy, state coordinator for Keystone Votes, suggested that Pennsylvania build on Act 77 of 2019, which authorized mail-in voting, with laws that:  

  • Allow mail-in ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day.
  • Allow county election officials to pre-canvass mail-in or drop-off ballots and provide a clear and transparent process for pre-canvassing them so that voters know their ballot is accurate and their vote will be counted. 
  • Improve access by enacting same-day registration and early voting and creating voting centers, where people can vote at a place that is most convenient to them, such as at their job or university.

Peri Jude Radecic, CEO of Disability Rights Pennsylvania, also suggested that the state improve on making buildings and voting machines more accessible to people with disabilities.