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It should be easy to vote, and hard to cheat

This editorial has been modified from the version originally published to correct an error in a legislative press release that was used as a source for the editorial.

State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove (R-York) has been holding hearings in the legislature since November, focusing on the general election of 2020 and the issues that cropped up during that election.

Pennsylvania’s election law, originally passed in 1937, was updated during the COVID pandemic — as it should have been — to fulfill the unique needs of voters during the crisis. But the law also was tampered with inappropriately when the former secretary of state and the highly partisan state Supreme Court made decisions that violate any plain reading of Pennsylvania’s constitution.

The committee listened to county election directors and heard from balanced, non-partisan testifiers.

Throughout the 10 hearings, the committee received testimony from more than 50 experts and local and state election officials, including officials from other states. Numerous flaws were found within Pennsylvania’s election code and its implementation.

It is no secret the last-minute court rulings and often unclear guidelines from the Department of State caused confusion among voters and led to nonuniformity among the 67 counties, which goes against the Pennsylvania Constitution. For example, the Department of State is pushing a false narrative that Pennsylvania has early in-person voting. Early in-person voting has not been approved in any law adopted by the General Assembly.

Another area where Pennsylvania election law fails are for those voters with disabilities. We can and must do better to provide statutory accessibility and modernization to help our disabled voters.

It was learned that nearly $21 million in third-party grants, typically from big businesses, contributed to the lack of uniformity when the money was disproportionately distributed. About half of that money was directed to Philadelphia, which equaled to about $10 per voter, while most other counties received less than a $1 per voter.

Election security must begin at the voter registration process, the most important part of our election process next to the casting of ballots. County governments are registering individuals without validating information on their voter registration application. Voter applications must be verified prior to approval.

Individuals have not been disenfranchised from Pennsylvania’s current voter identification requirements, which allows 16 different forms of ID and applies only to first-time voters of a polling location. Election data has shown states with stronger voter identification requirements have increased voter turnout among all demographics. Recent polling shows support for voter identification policies with 75% of voters, a majority of Republicans and Democrats, in favor.

Local election officials would like to see a change to the election timeline so they can better manage the election process. They requested changing the voter registration deadline from 15 to 30 days before an election, while increasing absentee ballot application deadlines from seven days before an election to 15 days before an election, and allowing for pre-canvassing of ballots seven days before an election.

Elections must be held to the highest integrity while also being accessible to all legal voters — and only legal voters. Rules must be fair, impartial and evenly enforced.

We didn’t have that last November. It’s crucial the legislature, the body designated to do so in the state constitution, ensure that laws make voting accessible to all — except cheaters.

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