Despite the ongoing devastation of the health and financial crises caused by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvanians must protect their right to vote and cast their vote.

The PA House has passed election reforms to further strengthen our elections by helping people vote safely at polling places or from home, while assisting counties in processing the surge in mail-in ballots. House Republicans are defending our Constitution, ensuring the security of our elections, and protecting the integrity of the election process. 

The House has passed House Bill 2626 to provide for safe and secure elections. This bill addresses many of the concepts asked for in the Pennsylvania Department of State report on the primary election.

Here are three primary reasons that House Bill 2626 is necessary:

House Bill 2626 will provide voters more options to cast their ballots. By allowing voting in person, through the mail, and dropping off mail-in ballot at polling place voters have many options for where they can cast their ballot.

House Bill 2626 provides certainty about the results. With new timelines for requesting ballots, mailing ballots out to voters, and requiring only those ballots in hand by 8 p.m. on election day, it ensures we have results on election day or soon after and we do not have election week or election month.

House Bill 2626 ensures the security of the process. The bill provide for doubled penalties for violations of the Election Code and penalties for voter fraud. By giving more options to voters the never-legal drop boxes are unnecessary. It also requires any pre-canvassing to be video recorded and monitored while expanding access and eligibility for poll watchers.

Questions and Answers About Election Reform in Pennsylvania

Who has the authority over our election and registration laws?

The Wolf Administration is trying to make changes to our election laws through the use of the courts. Gov. Wolf is literally skirting the power of the General Assembly by filing a request for a court order to change how and when votes are counted.

What are recent major changes passed in Pennsylvania affecting voting and elections?

Act 77 of 2019 - includes comprehensive election code reforms, including the establishment of vote by mail. Before passage of this legislation, registered voters needed a specific reason to request an absentee ballot. Act 77 changed this to allow all Pennsylvanians to request a mail-in ballot

Act 12 of 2020 - among other things, established emergency provisions to implement postponement of the primary from April to June 2, 2020 during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PA House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff
details the need for these election reforms.

Election Code changes that are part of House Bill 2626 include:

Reduce Number of Late-Arriving Ballots

• Move deadline to apply for absentee and mail-in ballot back from 7 days prior to an election to 15 days prior to an election.
• Require counties to begin mailing absentee and mail-in ballots no later than 28 days prior to an election, rather than the current deadline of 14 days before an election.

Get results on Election Day (or as soon thereafter as possible)

• Allow county boards of election to pre-canvass absentee and mail-in ballots, including verifying, opening, scanning and processing of ballots, as early as 8 a.m. on the Saturday before the election. At least one meeting would be required. o Counties would not be permitted to pre-canvass or canvass ballots during the hours that polls are open on Election Day.
• Ensure the security of the processing of absentee and mail-in ballots:
     o Require the recordings of the pre-canvassing and canvassing meetings to be made available for public inspection.
     o Require the maintenance of chain of custody for absentee and mail-in ballots if the pre-canvassing or canvassing is done at a site other than the county board of election’s offices.
     o Allow the county chairperson of each political party or a designee to be an authorized observer of a pre-canvassing and canvassing meeting.
     o Require that authorized representatives observing the pre-canvassing or canvassing meeting be permitted within audio range and with a clear line of sight of the activities. 
     o Clarify criminal penalties for release of results from pre-canvassing.

• Require canvassing to begin no later than 9 a.m. on the day after the election, rather than the current 3-day requirement.

Improve Election Security

• Clarify that absentee and mail-in ballots may be returned only by these methods:
     o By mail;
     o In person to the county board of election’s main office,
     o In person to a location in the courthouse designated by the county board of election o In person to the voter’s polling place on election day, and
     …and to no other location.

• Eliminate the spoilage provision that allows a voter to remit their absentee or mail-in ballot to the judge of elections and vote on the voting machines.

• Establish a procedure to notify a voter whose signature on the outer envelope of the absentee or mail-in ballot does not match the signature on file with the person’s voter registration and to allow the voter to cure this deficiency.

• Require the establishment of a bar code tracking system through the SURE system to track absentee and mail-in ballots issued and to verify that the ballot has not previously been returned.

• Allow poll watchers to be appointed from anywhere in Pennsylvania.

• Double all criminal penalties for violation of the Election Code.

Improved operations of in-person voting

• Allow poll workers to be appointed from anywhere in a county.

Improved Oversight

• For each future election, require that the Department of State issue a report similar to the report on the 2020 Primary Election required under Act 35 of 2020. These reports will reveal trends, issues and opportunities for improvement in how elections are implemented.