– In an important step forward to restore public trust in the state’s voting systems, Rep. Matthew Dowling (R-Fayette/Somerset) joined a majority in the House today to approve a comprehensive election reform bill.
House Bill 1300
aims to increase access, improve security and modernize archaic election laws in Pennsylvania to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
“As I’ve said many times before, nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our state’s elections,” Dowling said. “This is not about the results of any prior election but about the process of conducting elections in the future. State Government Committee hearings this spring shone a light on several problems that led to a poorly and inconsistently run election in November of 2020 throughout the Commonwealth, followed by additional problems in the May 2021 primary election in several locations, including in Fayette County.
“Our citizens deserve to have confidence in the process used to elect their local, state and federal officials. This bill seeks to do just that,” he added.
The bill would make several changes designed to boost security of the state’s elections. Most notably, it would expand current voter ID requirements to have voters present identification each time they vote in person, rather than only presenting it when they first vote in a new precinct. To ensure all registered voters would have an acceptable form of ID, counties would be required to issue durable, scannable voter registration cards.
In addition to expanded voter ID, the bill would also require risk-limiting audits of each election, as well as audits of county boards of elections, the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system and the Department of State every five years; improve election uniformity among the 67 counties as required by the Pennsylvania Constitution; enhance certification processes for all machines used in elections; and require signature verification using ballot scanning equipment for mail-in and absentee ballots.
The bill would address several concerns raised by county officials in testimony before the House State Government Committee, including allowing earlier counting of mail-in ballots, moving it from no earlier than 7 a.m. on Election Day to five days before Election Day. It would also move the last day to register to vote back to 30 days prior to an election, as it was before its recent shift to closer to elections to ensure counties have adequate time for processing.
Finally, the measure would address voting access by allowing for early in-person voting to begin in 2025; correcting non-fatal defects on mail-in ballots, such as unsigned or undated ballots, which must be completed by 8 p.m. of Election Day; and giving counties the option to use secure mail-in ballot drop boxes during specific times and at secure locations.
House Bill 1300 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.