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Pennsylvania governor says Republican voting bill is based on 'fringe conspiracy theories'

Jun 18, 2021, 02:30 IST
Business Insider
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf addresses supporters before former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for statewide Democratic candidates on September 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Mark Makela/Getty Images
  • Pennsylvania Republicans are seeking to impose new ID requirements on the state's voters.
  • Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has promised to veto any GOP voting bill.
  • After the 2020 election, the Pennsylvania GOP tried to delay certification of Biden's victory.

A Republican proposal that would make it more difficult to vote by mail in Pennsylvania is driven by "fringe conspiracy theories," Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf charged Thursday.

On Wednesday, a committee in the state's GOP-led legislature advanced a 147-page election bill that, according to a summary from PA Spotlight, would impose a new requirement that voters present ID every time they vote; currently, voters only present ID the first time they cast a ballot after registering.

A 2015 study by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found such ID requirements reduced turnout "among eligible and registered voters" by as much as 3.2%.

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The GOP bill also requires signature verification for mail-in ballots and reduces the time before an election that residents have to register to vote, down from 30 days to 15.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Gov. Wolf reiterated his pledge to veto the package, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"Make no mistake, leaders of the House Republican caucus are being driven by fringe conspiracy theories, and that is no way to make good policy," he said.

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Wolf's threatened veto comes despite the bill including some provisions that enjoy bipartisan support. For example, it would allow counties to begin processing mail-in ballots up to five days prior to election day. In 2020, the fact that overwhelmingly Democratic ballots were only tallied in the days after the election was exploited by former President Donald Trump and his allies to baselessly allege fraud.

The bill would also allow for mail-in ballot drop boxes and, after the 2024 presidential election, six days of early voting.

But Democrats charge that any good is negated by the bad - and motivated by a desire to address a problem of widespread fraud that was never uncovered. In April, a man in Pennsylvania admitted to voting for Trump on behalf of his dead mother, which according to prosecutors is the only known case of a ballot credibly attributed to a deceased person.

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Prior to its latest push to reform the state's election laws, Pennsylvania Republicans went to extreme lengths to cast doubt about the integrity of the 2020 vote.

In January, a majority of the Pennsylvania GOP backed an effort to delay the certification of President Joe Biden's victory in the swing state, which he won by more than 80,000 votes.

After the 2020 election, a group of Pennsylvania Republicans also sued to have the state's no-excuse mail-in voting law ruled unconstitutional, despite it having been passed in 2019 with overwhelming GOP support - part of a compromise that eliminated party-line voting in a state where there are significantly more registered Democrats. The state Supreme Court rejected that bid, which would have invalidated more than 2.6 million votes.

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State GOP leaders have since rejected efforts to bring an Arizona-style partisan "audit" to Pennsylvania. But key players in the party continue to push for one, with the Trump-backed Sen. Doug Mastriano, a potential candidate for governor in 2022, recently endorsing an "audit" campaign launched by conspiracy theorists who embraced QAnon and falsely claim China hacked the state's voting machines.

According to a joint statement from state and federal elections security officials, the 2020 vote "was the most secure in American history."

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