House advances most substantial election reforms in 80 years

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TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 22: Voting booths are setup at the Yuengling center on the campus of University of South Florida as workers prepare to open the doors to early voters on October 22, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. Florida voters head to the polls to cast their early ballots in the race for the Senate as well as the Governors seats. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The most comprehensive effort to modernize and improve Pennsylvania’s elections since the 1930s has been passed by the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 421 establishes mail-in voting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and this gives residents more time to register to vote ahead of elections and eliminates the straight-party ticket from ballots, this according to a news release from the P.A. House.

“Straight-party voting is an antiquated practice that works to encourage voters to blindly choose a blank box at the top of a ballot,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “The vast majority of states removed straight-party voting years ago, believing the electorate has the right to choose people over party, and let their personal beliefs lead them in the voting booth, not just a one-party box.”

Rep. Ryan Bizzarro of Erie cast his vote against the bill.

“Voters already have the option of selecting each candidate one by one, or they can choose to make their selection all at once through straight ticket voting,” Bizzarro said. “The goal of voting laws should be making it easier for people to vote. This bill does the opposite. This bill reduces choices, will create longer lines at polling precincts and leaves many questions unanswered.”

The legislation also provides the pathway for the state to provide $90 million in bonding to help every Pennsylvania county pay for newly required modern voting machines. Gov. Tom Wolf acted unilaterally to de-certify voting machines statewide and required counties to obtain more advanced and secure voting machines that produce a verifiable paper trail with each vote. The Legislature moved to provide the funding in June; however, the governor vetoed that measure.

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