State College -- New voting legislation has reached the state legislature in direct response to voting issues brought to light by the 2020 general election. Rep. Scott Conklin proposed the legislation on Monday, claiming that it would improve voting and voter access across Pennsylvania. As a former Centre County Commissioner and election board chair, Rep. Conklin said he is well aware of many of the issues local election officials ran into in the unprecedented 2020 general election.
“After the unprecedented election in 2020, county elections officials asked the state legislature for help. Well, today I am letting them know that their voices were heard, and moving to introduce legislation that would streamline processes, allow for pre-canvassing and fund necessary equipment purchases,” Conklin said. “Instead of pointing fingers, my legislation will help the system work better, which is what the people of Pennsylvania want and deserve.”
The proposed legislation would allow pre-canvassing of ballots to begin 21 days prior to election day, instead of the morning of. This change would help avoid the long delays in vote counting and has been sought by county commissioners and elections officials from both parties, according to Conklin's press release.
The bill would require risk-limiting audits, provide for early voting, and give county election boards flexibility when establishing ballot return locations. It would also make the ‘permanent’ vote-by-mail list actually permanent, create a system of curing for absentee and mail-in ballots, create a public voter fraud hotline, establish a voter bill of rights and seek to have the state reimburse counties for the costs of voting machines, ballot processing machines, and electronic record systems.
“The 2020 election was the first real test after the legislature updated Pennsylvania’s voting laws in 2019. And while it may have been a ‘perfect storm’ of events that we hope to never again see in our lifetimes, it did raise issues with the new laws,” Conklin said. “My legislation, which I’ve been working on with local elections officials and others, seeks to address those concerns, update our laws and create a system that not only expands voting access and makes voting easier, but also strengthens trust in the system.
“It is my sincere hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Harrisburg will agree -- and join me in making these necessary updates to our elections laws.”