Voter-Integrity Amendments Pass the Pennsylvania House


A set of amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution, including a voter-identification requirement, passed the state House of Representatives this week on nearly party-line votes.

To become part of the state Constitution, the proposed amendments must pass in two consecutive sessions of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and must gain approval by a majority of voters in an election. State House members voted on these measures as amendments to a Senate bill that would let gubernatorial candidates select their own running mates, whereas current law lets Pennsylvanians vote to elect nominees for lieutenant governor.

The voter-identification measure stipulates that voters present unexpired government-issued identification in order to vote. If a voter does not have a valid ID card such as a driver’s license, he or she could obtain an ID from the government free of charge. House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Quarryville) said that although he and many other legislators support a voter-ID requirement, the key question on the amendment is whether Pennsylvanians should themselves get to decide if such a requirement is or isn’t wise.

“This isn’t necessarily [determining that] we think there needs to be voter ID,” Cutler said. “It’s [determining whether] the people have a say on whether they believe voter ID is important…. I believe that, at the end of the day, the people always have the right to decide how to be governed.” 

Another measure offered by State Rep. Dawn Keefer (R-Dillsburg) would require the General Assembly to enact a statute mandating the auditing of elections by the auditor general to ensure the elections’ accuracy. In years when the auditor general himself or herself runs for election, an independent auditor would be appointed to oversee the audit. 

Another amendment, proposed by State Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Waynesboro) would limit the application of all executive orders to 21 days unless the legislature approves their extension. (That time limit already applies to orders issued by the governor but does not apply to orders made by his appointees.) 

An additional amendment authored by State Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Greensburg) would permit Pennsylvania’s legislature to cancel a regulation by the executive branch without needing the governor’s approval. 

“This would simply allow the people to speak through us, their representatives, on the regulatory process,” Cutler said. 

All Republicans and one Democrat, State Rep. Frank Burns (Ebensburg), voted for the voter-identification and election-audit amendments as well as for the final passage of the full Senate bill. No Democrats voted to amend the executive-order or regulatory-disapproval provisions to the bill. The original version of the Senate legislation, with just the provision on allowing gubernatorial nominees to pick their running mates, passed the Senate 43 to 4, with two Democrats and two Republicans voting against it.

Democratic legislators have strongly denounced voter-identification requirements and post-election audits. On Wednesday, several of them held a press conference castigating Republicans for working to advance such measures and for pushing for a comprehensive investigation of the 2020 election.

“Pennsylvania is the birthplace of America’s democracy and our fragile experiment has never been in greater danger than it is right now,” State Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-Pittsburgh) said. “And the culprits of that attack are the very people who placed their hands on the holy text and swore an oath to protect and defend our founding document…. The Republican majority is gleefully using the positions they won in 2020 to tell Pennsylvania voters that the 2020 election was fraudulent, unsecured and invalid.”

Senate Republicans’ ability to conduct a forensic investigation into the last year’s election contest is currently being considered by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. In particular, a panel of that court’s judges is deciding whether to allow a subpoena of millions of voters’ registration documents as well as intergovernmental communications pertaining to the election.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Voting” by Lorie Shaull CC BY 2.0.



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