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Let us count the votes!
Oct 13, 2022

Let us count the votes!

by Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167)

The Harrisburg Republican hypocrisy on voting and voting rights is stunning. In 2019 the Pennsylvania legislature, in rare bipartisan fashion, passed Act 77 making no-excuse, absentee voting legal in the Commonwealth along with other voting reforms. The bill garnered Republican support because it also eliminated straight-ticket party voting, a long-sought Republican goal.

In the Pennsylvania House, where I serve and Republicans hold the majority, Act 77 passed 138 to 61. Just two years later in September of 2021, after Donald Trump posited his stolen election lie, 14 Republican legislators, 11 of whom voted for and praised of Act 77, sued in state court to throw out the law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court and more than 2.5 million Pennsylvania voters whom, in 2020 mailed-in their ballots, disagreed.

There’s more…

Their doomed lawsuit was not the only Republican chicanery. Throughout 2021, Seth Grove (R-York), chair of the State Government Committee, conducted a series of sham public hearings on election law reforms to tee up a 149-page election “reform” bill. It was painful sitting through their staged hearings watching several of their own witnesses, Republican county election officials, plead in vain for simple reforms to make their jobs easier and elections more efficient. The Grove bill, which was not negotiated with Democrats on the committee or the Wolf administration, was filled with “reforms” that, in reality, made voting and managing elections more complicated and one important change sought by election officials, allowing the processing and counting of mail-in ballots prior to election day, did not make the cut in the final draft. Why?

All about undermining confidence in elections
-While there are numerous election reforms we could put in place that would make voting more accessible and easier for all Pennsylvanians and elections more efficient, let’s focus on just one of the reforms election authorities were, and still are, seeking – pre-canvassing mail-in ballots before Election Day. There is no reasonable excuse not to begin the processing and counting of mail-in ballots before Election Day.

By not pre-canvassing mail in ballots, it births a scenario that extends a final vote counting result for a day or more, potentially delivering final results drastically different from the vote totals reported on election night. This sets the stage for a candidate to prematurely declare victory on election night (when have we heard that one) allowing charlatans and other bad actors to undermine election confidence with a portion of the electorate already predisposed to believe elections are rigged.

Republicans never met a voter suppression tactic they didn’t like

Hiding behind the boogeyman of voter fraud, Republicans disingenuously employ an arsenal of voter suppression tactics meant to make it harder for certain demographic groups to vote. The list of Republican voter schemes is long and dangerous including aggressively purging voter rolls;  implementing overly stringent voter ID requirements; moving polling places out of minority and student neighborhoods; banning mail-in voting; requiring burdensome signature matches and identification for voting by mail; eliminating drop boxes; disallowing “ballot curing” for minor, inadvertent mistakes; denying felons the right to vote; intimidating voters; spreading misinformation; understaffing and equipping polling places; cutting-back early voting; and my favorite, disallowing food and water distribution to voters in line.

We could go on, but I think you get the point. I am not a Pollyanna and do not believe our current majority Republican legislature is going to do anything about their voter suppression mania. However, can we at least agree to pre-canvassing mail-ballots prior to Election Day to achieve a timely counting and reporting of election results?

Let us count the votes!

Photo credit: Washington Post


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