HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – Surrounded by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and public interest groups, Governor Tom Wolf signed the most significant election reform in 80 years.
“For too long, Pennsylvania has made it too hard for our citizens to actually fully participate in our democracy,” the governor declared.
Now a bipartisan group of legislators has enacted significant changes that will take effect by April’s primary.
“It’s pretty remarkable in this place. I always like to say that when we do things like this, we’re not like Washington. We get it done here,” said PA Sen. Lisa Boscola, a Bethlehem Democrat and principal sponsor of the reforms.
Among the biggest changes, every voter will now be able to vote by mail without needing the excuse of being sick or out of town for school/business.
“Pennsylvanians can now join a permanent mailing list to automatically receive an application by mail for a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot each and every year,” noted the governor.
Second, those mail-in and absentee ballots will be counted as long as they are in by Election Day, rather than the Friday before.
“It is also well documented that across the Commonwealth, thousands of people lose their vote because of Pennsylvania’s absentee ballot deadline — the earliest, most restrictive deadline in the country,” said Elizabeth Randall from the Pennsylvania ACLU. “With the new deadline of 8 p.m. on Election Day, that barrier is now gone.”
Third, voter registration will now close just 15 days before an election, instead of 30 days.
“Today, voters won. Voters became more invaluable and more empowered,” said Micah Sims of Common Cause PA.
Fourth, voters will no longer be able to vote straight Republican or straight Democratic.
Instead, voters must pick their candidates one at a time.
“I think it should always be about the individual, not the party,” added Boscola.
Fifth, lawmakers approved $90 million to reimburse counties for voting machines that have a paper trail.