HARRISBURG – The House today approved a comprehensive election reform measure designed to ensure integrity and restore public trust in the state’s voting systems, said Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Bradford/Tioga/Potter), a co-sponsor of the bill.
“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our system of governance, but in-depth hearings held earlier this year revealed there are cracks in that foundation that need our attention,” Owlett said. “The Voting Rights Protection Act approved by the House today puts us on a firm footing for future elections, ensuring all legal voters can easily cast their ballots and feel confident that their votes are counted and the results accurate.”
To boost election security, House Bill 1300
would expand upon current voter identification rules by requiring ID to be presented each time someone votes in person, rather than just for the first time at a new polling place. To ensure all legal voters can meet the requirement, the bill requires counties to issue a durable, scannable voter registration card.
The measure also would substantially expand auditing requirements, requiring a risk-limiting audit following each election and prior to result certification, as well as audits of counties, the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system and the Department of State every five years.
“When you’re doing things right, there’s no reason to fear an audit,” Owlett said. “More importantly, if things aren’t quite right or there are ways to do things better, shouldn’t we want to know and act on that?”
The bill also works to ensure uniformity across counties, an issue that arose over and over again during the series to 10 hearings held by the House State Government Committee this spring to study the state’s election process.
“One of the issues that really concerned me during the hearings was “outside money” that was given to some counties and not others to administer the November 2020 election,” Owlett said. “Under this bill, any outside money coming into the state would be distributed fairly based on voting-age population.”
To address issues raised by local election officials in the committee hearings, the bill would allow 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 adequate time for processing.
To increase voter access, the bill also allows for early in-person voting to begin in 2025; allows for 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 gives 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.
Representative Clint Owlett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler