By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Last Wednesday, the governor signed into law one of the most comprehensive efforts to modernize and improve Pennsylvania’s elections since the 1930s. Senate Bill 421
, finalized last week by the House of Representatives, establishes mail-in voting in the Commonwealth, gives Pennsylvanians more time to register to vote ahead of elections, and eliminates the straight-party ticket option from ballots.
The legislation also provides the pathway for the state to provide $90 million in bonding to help every Pennsylvania county pay for newly required modern voting machines. In June, Gov. Tom Wolf acted unilaterally to decertify voting machines statewide and required counties to obtain more advanced and secure voting machines that produce a verifiable paper trail with each vote. The Legislature moved to provide the funding in June; however, the governor inexplicably vetoed that measure.
That veto, unfortunately, forced counties into a corner, setting up the situation in which every county was required to come up with new machines regardless of their current voting systems. House Republicans responded in June and again last week, hearing from our counties and providing more money for new machines and secure voting than even the administration had asked for.
Other modernization measures include allowing voter registration up to 15 days prior to an election, allowing all ballots to be received until 8 p.m. on election days, and establishing mail-in voting. The mail-in voting will work similar to the current absentee ballot system but would allow any registered voter to vote by mail, increasing access for all voters.
Further, all mailed and absentee ballots will go to centralized locations, not to individual precincts, strengthening security and timeliness, and helping provide clear and definitive election results as quickly as possible.
This bill contains provisions that were developed over a multi-year period, with input from people of different backgrounds and regions of Pennsylvania. It serves to preserve the integrity of every election and lift the voice of every voter in the Commonwealth, regardless of their political affiliation.