HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf pledged that he will veto any bills he believes restrict voting rights and called talk of conducting further audits of the 2020 election “shameful” and “dangerous.”

Lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly have indicated they are preparing to unveil proposals to update the state’s election law and several lawmakers have already announced or introduced bills that reinstate voter ID requirements and roll back the expansion of no-excuse mail-in voting.

“Some bad actors in the Legislature and across the country are spewing debunked conspiracy theories as they try to undermine confidence in the November election and its outcome. In Arizona, fringe politicians have forced a sham audit that is an embarrassing and chaotic mess, and it is dividing the public and Republican politicians,” Wolf said.

“Some Republicans are wasting taxpayer money so they can spew dangerous lies to divide the people and spread doubt about an election. The infighting they’ve created, the lies they’ve spread, and the public money and resources they’ve wasted to do it is shameful.”

Three state lawmakers — State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin County; Sen. Cris Dush, R-Indiana County; and state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin County — traveled to Arizona to see an audit of the election results in Maricopa County commissioned by that state's Senate.

Those lawmakers have indicated they’d like a similar audit in this state, but state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York County, who chairs the House state government committee that held 10 hearings on the election, has said he doesn’t believe the state should conduct any additional audits of the 2020 election.

“The PA House of Representatives will not be authorizing any further audits on any previous election,” he said. “We are focused on fixing our broken election law to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat."

Wolf said measures that Republicans say are intended to improve election security would actually lead to voter suppression, which he opposes.

House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton said the legislation “would essentially target communities of color and people who have disabilities and need to be able to vote by mail.”

McClinton said the move to attempt to restrict voting access follows similar efforts in other states, including Georgia, Iowa and Texas.

“It’s unacceptable and we’re not going to stand by and let it happen,” she said.

State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, said the restrictions would roll back gains in voting access that took years to achieve.

“Many of these measures are reenactments of Jim Crow-era voter suppression efforts. It’s insulting to me as an African American attorney,” he said. “We spent an entire generation getting to a place where generally speaking, people could vote. Now they want to bring back Jim Crow and suggest we should let Jim Crow back and say, ‘Well, maybe it won’t be as bad as the last time.’” 

Republicans have said that too many residents distrust the election process now and that they don’t approve of guidance given by the Department of State and a direction from a Supreme Court ruling on how mail-in voting should be implemented.

Mastriano and state Sen. Patrick Stefano, R-Fayette County, have announced plans for legislation that would ask voters in a ballot question whether no-excuse mail-in voting should be eliminated.

“Millions of voters around our state have expressed skepticism about the security of our elections going forward. Some have asked: ‘Why should I even vote if my vote will be canceled out by another that is not legal?'" they said in a memo announcing their proposed legislation. "Significant doubt in the validity of a one’s vote has serious repercussions for our democracy. As the governor will certainly veto any legislation to correct the damages done to our voting laws, the best course of action is to introduce several referendum questions to repeal Act 77."

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Lycoming County, introduced House Bill 853, which would reinstate voter ID requirements. Tuesday, he also announced that he is planning to introduce a proposal to ask voters to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to require voter ID, another attempt to get around Wolf’s veto pen.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

 

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