Polling place ballot box

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania state lawmakers unveiled a long-awaited election reform bill on Thursday that’s sure to face pushback from Gov. Tom Wolf.

Chief among the proposed changes in House Bill 1300 includes a more stringent voter I.D. rule that would require residents to show identification before casting a ballot in person during each election, instead of just the first time at a polling place as currently required by law.

Residents without photo identification could sign an affidavit at the polls, according the legislation. But it’s a nonstarter for Wolf and legislative Democrats, who vowed Wednesday afternoon to oppose any reform they perceive as suppressive.

“I reaffirm my commitment to the people of this commonwealth that I will always uphold our democracy,” Wolf said. “I will stand up for your freedom to vote, and I will not allow bad actors to put up barriers to voting. Not only will I stand against any efforts to roll back our freedoms, I will continue to push for changes to take down the barriers that still exist.”

State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove, R-York, crafted the bill after a series of 10 hearings that collected testimony from county officials, voting rights groups and administration officials about the shortcomings of the state’s existing election law.

“This responsible bill includes all aspects of issues brought before the committee and will propel Pennsylvania’s election into the 21st century, all while fixing fatal flaws and election security issues,” Grove said. “Pennsylvania must be a leader in secure elections, which are also accessible to all legal voters.”

The bill, called the Voting Rights Protection Act, includes several reforms supported by both parties, such as provisions that establish early in-person voting starting in 2025; ballot drop boxes; pre-canvassing mail-in ballots up to five days before an election; curbside voting on Election Day; and uniform rules for curing defective ballots across all 67 counties.

GOP leaders, including House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, and Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, said the bill represents “countless hours” of review that will improve the integrity and efficiency of elections statewide. 

“Pennsylvanians must have faith in their elections and this bill is another piece of restoring the public’s trust,” Cutler said.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.