by Christen Smith
The prime sponsor of a vetoed voting reform bill said Friday he reintroduced the measure after Gov. Tom Wolf shifted his public opinion on some components of the legislation over the summer.
Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said House Bill 1800 would bolster voting rights “through three broad concepts of increased access, increased security and modernization.”
“We know access and security are not mutually exclusive,” he said.
Grove began circulating a cosponsorship memo for his bill, dubbed the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act, after Wolf told the Philadelphia Inquirer he “pre-judged” a prior version and refused to negotiate on it because he doubted GOP leaders’ sincerity.
Wolf also told the newspaper in July he’s not opposed to broadening the state’s voter ID law – just not in the way Grove envisioned it in the now-vetoed House Bill 1300.
“As I say, we have voter ID now,” he said during the interview. “And I’m okay with that, the way we do it, you know, and I’m sure out there there is a reasonable voter ID solution to say, you know, you need to show that you should be voting here. And I’m fine with that. The formula in 1300, in my mind, was not it.”
The vetoed legislation mandated residents show ID each time they cast a ballot, expanding upon existing law that only requires it of first-time voters at a polling place. The acceptable forms of ID, Grove said, were intentionally broad to both enhance security and access. Voters who showed up without any form of ID could sign an affidavit swearing to their identity, for example.
But Wolf, echoing sentiments of Democrats nationally, said he doubted that Republicans had any intention of negotiating “in good faith” after some spent months questioning the results of the November 2020 election.
“If you think the other side is negotiating in good faith, I’ll always be happy to negotiate,” he told the Inquirer. “If you think the other side is basically just going through a sham, just trying to, you know, go through the motions but really doesn’t mean it, that’s not a real negotiation. And I didn’t get the sense that supporters of 1300 were actually serious about it.”
Grove has said the governor made too many assumptions about his intentions, based on a misguided “national narrative.” He maintains the administration never read the bill, let alone considered any revisions to it.
The Center Square reached out to the administration on Friday for comment, but did not receive an immediate response. Lyndsay Kensinger, a Wolf spokesperson, told The Center Square in July that the voter ID component wasn’t the only deal breaker in Grove’s bill.
“The governor will not agree to a bill which increases restrictions on popular voting options, including limiting drop boxes, making it much more difficult to vote by mail, and limiting early voting,” she said.
The Legislature is also pursuing a constitutional amendment on the matter. The Senate approved a bill in June that would, if approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions, allow residents to decide whether an ID should be required each time a voter casts a ballot.
Governors can’t veto proposed constitutional amendments. That’s why, Grove has said, HB 1300 represented the “best deal” Wolf is going to get for the remainder of his term.
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Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.
Photo “Seth Grove” by Representative Seth Grove and photo “Tom Wolf” by Governor Tom Wolf.