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McClinton unveils legislation to add early voting and same-day registration in Pennsylvania

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Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 19, 2024

Pennsylvania House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) on Tuesday outlined her proposed legislation that would change state voting rules to allow same-day voting and early voting, to boost participation and accessibility. 

“It’s time that Pennsylvania joined nearly two dozen other states along with the District of Columbia to make it easier for voters to participate in elections,” McClinton said at a Harrisburg press conference between House sessions Tuesday. “Having early in-person voting, along with same-day voter registration on Election Day will empower our neighbors in every part of the Commonwealth to participate in each and every election.”

McClinton cited a recent editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer that called on Pennsylvania’s elected officials, including her, to do more to increase registration and turnout. “I cannot agree with that article more,” she said. 

The legislation McClinton proposes would “allow lawfully registered Pennsylvania voters to vote early in person during the two weeks leading up to Election Day and make it easier for all eligible Pennsylvanians to register to vote by allowing in person voter registration at polling locations on Election Day,” according to a memo seeking sponsors.

“These two critical modernizations will make it more convenient for busy, hardworking people who are juggling so many responsibilities and priorities to participate in voting to cast their vote in person,” McClinton said Tuesday. “And ultimately, these measures will make sure that all Pennsylvanians are able to participate in voting.”

 Pa. Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) unveiled legislation aimed at changing state voting rules to allow same-day registration and early voting, March 19, 2024. (Pa. House video)

If they advanced, the changes would not take effect until about 2027, McClinton said. In response to a question about concerns from local election officials, she said the state county commissioners’ association had expressed support. 

“They want it to make it easier for more people to participate, not harder,” she said. “In terms of voter registration, they want to make sure they have the time to gear up to do this.” 

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) said in a statement emailed to the Capital-Star on Tuesday that counties needed to be part of any discussions to ensure changes were implemented effectively, and with appropriate time and resources.

“While many of these changes are well-intended, Pennsylvania’s election system and laws are currently not set up to facilitate their implementation,” the CCAP statement reads.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., offer Election Day registration, which allows voters to register and vote on Election Day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

McClinton was joined at the press conference by advocacy groups and Pennsylvania voters. Salewa Ogunmefun, executive director of Pennsylvania Voice, a voting advocacy organization, said she looked forward to working with McClinton to pass the legislation. 

“These commonsense reforms will not only make it more convenient for all Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard at the ballot box, they will also help make our elections more secure,” Ogunmefun said.

McClinton had proposed a package of reforms during the previous session of the General Assembly that included early voting and same-day voting provisions among other changes, but the legislation failed to advance in the divided Legislature.

There’s little indication that the more streamlined version of the legislation that McClinton unveiled Tuesday would meet a different fate in the current Legislature, where Democrats control the House and Republicans remain in control of the Senate. 

In response to a request for comment Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) said in an email to the Capital-Star that “a lot can happen if we get Voter ID as a Constitutional Amendment.” 

The  House rejected a package of election reforms in October that included a voter ID requirement, and would have moved the presidential primary to mid-March to avoid conflicting with Passover. 

Meanwhile, in the state Senate on Tuesday, the State Government Committee advanced two election-related bills along party line votes that would restrict voting. Senate Bill 99 would eliminate ballot drop boxes and satellite offices and require voters submitting their ballots in person to do so at a county’s main election office.

Senate Bill 250 would add security measures including QR codes, holographic images and watermarks to ballots. Both bills were introduced by committee chair Cris Dush (R-Jefferson), who has frequently raised concerns about security around ballots and elections.

In 2020, Dush, then a state representative, co-sponsored a House resolution disputing the state’s election results. He was one of 64 Pennsylvania Republicans to sign a letter to the state’s congressional delegation, urging them to reject the electors that had been appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

During a hearing on Monday, cybersecurity officials urged members of the committee to press for the retirement of touchscreen voting machines, but said there was no evidence to call past elections into question because of the machines.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.