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Election reform panel cuts through rhetoric, identifies meaningful solutions

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our republic. Unfortunately, numerous questions have been raised over the past year about our election system in Pennsylvania. This has created a crisis of confidence that threatens to plunge our Commonwealth into an even deeper political divide if we fail to take action to fix it.

In my 22 years as a lawmaker, I have never seen an issue as divisive and politically charged as the handling of the 2020 general election. That is what makes the report this week from the Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform so remarkable and unique; in spite of a deeply toxic political environment, Republican and Democrat members agreed to put their political differences aside and outline the reforms we need to restore the public’s faith in our election system.

As a result, we now have a roadmap that cuts through the rhetoric and offers the promise of real, meaningful reform. I deeply appreciate the commitment of the committee members for their work approaching this issue in such a thoughtful, reasonable way.

The proposed reforms strike at the heart of concerns that have been raised by both sides of the aisle, including boosting election security, increasing voter participation and addressing the needs of counties.

The reforms are tightly focused on expanding voter security without creating new obstacles to voting. In fact, the report includes commonsense security measures that could clear the way for the authorization of drop boxes to make the voting process more accessible. To be clear, nothing in the recommendations will make it more difficult for any individual to exercise their right to vote whatsoever.

To address concerns relating to election security, the panel suggests following the lead of many other states in adding voter identification measures to protect the principle of One Person, One Vote. Other suggestions include ensuring greater transparency of mail-in ballot counting through livestreaming the vote-counting process, creating a tracking system for mail-in ballots and clearing deceased individuals from the voter rolls more efficiently and effectively.

Counties have endured an extremely difficult year, and our efforts to strengthen our election system must address their needs as well. The committee recommended giving counties the ability to pre-canvass ballots beginning three days prior to Election Day, removing the burden of counting all mail-in ballots in a single day. Changes in voter registration deadlines and mail-in ballot application deadlines will also help lessen the administrative burdens on counties and help our elections run much smoother in the future.

One thing is certain — we must take action to ensure all Pennsylvanians have elections they can believe in.

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Sen. Jake Corman is president pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate. He also represents the 34th Senatorial District, which includes Mifflin and Juniata counties.

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