The Office of Governor Tom Wolf announced the governor will sign Senate Bill 421. Lawmakers are touting the bill as Pennsylvania’s most substantial election reform in 80 years.
S.B. makes several sweeping changes to elections in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Among them includes the elimination of straight-party ticket voting, a new mail-in voting option, and more forgiving deadlines for voter registration. It also provides $90 million to counties to help pay for new voting systems.
The election reform bill passed with bipartisan support. In the state House, it passed 138-61.
“Straight-party voting is an antiquated practice that works to encourage voters to blindly choose a blank box at the top of a ballot,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “The vast majority of states removed straight-party voting years ago, believing the electorate has the right to choose people over party, and let their personal beliefs lead them in the voting booth, not just a one-party box.”
Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) is S.B. 421’s primary sponsor. The state Senate passed it 35-14, with eight Democrats joining all 27 Republicans.
“In a society where convenience is emphasized – where you can shop in your living room and within 24 hours a box shoes up at your doorstep – our voting process is finally catching up,” said Boscola.
For that convenience, voters now have 15 days before an election to register to vote. Additionally, officials must count all ballots submitted before 8 p.m. on election day..
The new mail-in system allows any voter to vote by mail if they so choose. Additionally, all mailed and absentee ballots will go to centralized locations to help provide quick results.
Bucks County is currently in the process of selecting new voting machines. It may use them as soon as the 2020 primary elections. Thanks to S.B. 421, the state will now help subsidize the cost.