PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A state House committee has approved a constitutional amendment that would change Pennsylvania’s election process in several ways.
Some Republicans see this as the best way to get the changes they desire. For years, Republicans have pushed the idea that every voter shows an ID card when voting.READ MORE: National Weather Service Determines EF-1 Tornado Touched Down In Hampton Twp., EF-0 In Mt. Nebo
In this state, that’s only required the first time you vote in a new precinct. When a bill to expand that to all elections was vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf, Republicans decided to put the question on the ballot as an amendment to the State Constitution. It’s one way to bypass the governor.
“It’s a way to overcome his unwillingness to come to the table on these issues and ignore the will of the people,” said Bill Bretz, the chair of the Westmoreland County Republican Party.
Bretz likes the proposed amendment approved Monday by the State Government Committee.
It states: “A qualified elector shall present a valid government-issued identification prior to voting.”
ID would be required whether you vote in person or by mail and voting by mail would also require the elector’s signature on the envelope, which would have to match a signature of record.
“I think that’s an easy thing to implement. I don’t think that’s disenfranchising because everyone has an ID, and I think that would restore a lot of confidence in the electoral process,” Bretz told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
“If you want a photo ID in rural Pennsylvania, there are no photo centers in some of the counties. There are no buses and no transportation, so the poor and the elderly will be the ones left behind,” said State Rep. Scott Conklin, a State College Democrat who leads the Democrats on the committee who voted “no” to this amendment.
Conklin said most forms of voter ID discriminate against certain voters, and he said Republicans are trying to solve an election problem that doesn’t exist.
“Not one county commissioner has come to me, who run the elections, and said, ‘We’ve got to overhaul the system.’ The County Commissioners Association who oversees the elections has not come to us. This is strictly a fraud that’s run to try to fool people,” Conklin said.READ MORE: Judge Declares Mistrial In Retrial Case Of Former Restaurant Owner Accused Of Sexual Assault
In 2012, the Commonwealth Court struck down a photo ID requirement, saying it disenfranchised voters, but this amendment makes no mention of a photo, calling instead for a government-issued ID, leaving the Legislature free to dictate the type of ID necessary to vote.
“There’s also a strong push for voter ID, and I do think that’s something that most Pennsylvanians and most Americans would like to see implemented,” Bretz said.
A second amendment would require elections to be audited by the auditor general prior to being certified. Democrats said this is already done by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, who oversees elections.
“Before those ballots are certified, the election is certified, there is an audit to check a certain percentage of all the ballots randomly to make sure they’re true. It’s worked very well. There’s not been widespread fraud,” Conklin said.
But Republicans unhappy with the performance of former Secretary Kathy Boockvar want to make her office a statewide election like the attorney general, auditor general and state treasurer.
“We should approach the idea of electing election officials with a great deal of skepticism,” said David Thornburgh, who heads a good government think tank and is the son of the late Republican Gov. Dick Thornburgh.
Thornburgh warns against this amendment.
“It politicizes it. All of a sudden, they’re out raising money. They’re asked to take positions on issues before they’re in office,” Thornburgh said.
And who can forget how former President Donald Trump called Georgia’s secretary of state, asking him to “find 11,000 votes.”
“There are lots of reasons why we should protect that office from partisan interference,” Thornburgh said.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In Pittsburgh: Allegheny County Reports 330 New Cases, No Additional Deaths
Before these proposed amendments can get on the ballot for voter approval, they must pass both houses of the Legislative twice in separate sessions. That means nothing will be on the ballot until 2023. This process is just beginning.