Policy Hearing: In search of election solutions, not political games

Changes needed at state level to help counties, election workers

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 2 – After a two-year cycle when extremists in Harrisburg attempted to restrict voting rights for political gain, the House Democratic Policy Committee highlighted legislation that will help all Pennsylvania residents – regardless of party affiliation – and preserve election integrity.

“Even before the 2020 election, Pennsylvania counties and the Pennsylvania Department of State asked for expanded pre-canvassing,” said Rep. Sara Innamorato, who hosted the hearing at the Allegheny County Courthouse. “As lawmakers, protecting and expanding democracy is one of our fundamental duties.”   

The Policy Committee heard testimony from Allegheny County election officials, a representative from the University of Pittsburgh Law School and members of the ACLU.

“I’m hopeful real change can take place on this issue,” Policy Chairman and state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro said. “After extremists wasted two straight election cycles floating one conspiracy theory after another and filing repeated failed lawsuits, I’m optimistic we will see progress. Extremists in Harrisburg have finally admitted they need to embrace mail-in voting.”

Act 77 currently prohibits pre-canvassing, or the opening of ballots, before 7 a.m. on Election Day. An overwhelming number of county election officials – most of them Republicans – have asked for more time to prepare mail ballots for counting. Their pleas were ignored by Harrisburg Republicans. Perhaps signaling a change and bipartisan action, Gov. Josh Shapiro nominated Republican Al Schmidt to be the state’s top elections administrator and to serve as the acting Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“This is not a red or blue issue, or an issue isolated to just our largest cities,” Innamorato said. “This is a bipartisan issue that also needs to be addressed in many rural counties where election officials are struggling to meet the standards placed on them by current state statute.”

Testimony from the hearing can be found at https://bit.ly/Policy020223 and more details about the Policy Committee can be found at https://pahouse.com/policy.