Gov. Wolf plans to veto election code bill in its current form

It contains a controversial provision allowing campaigns to assign poll watchers anywhere in the state.

  • Emily Previti

(Harrisburg) — Gov. Tom Wolf will veto an election code bill that passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives today, if it passes the Senate as well.

His spokeswoman confirmed Wolf’s intended veto of House bill 2626 if it stays as is, citing in particular the need for voter access to drop boxes for mail-in ballots and more time for counties to prep mailed ballots received back before Election Day for processing.

After 90 minutes of floor debate, the House voted nearly on party lines Wednesday afternoon to pass the measure, with three Democrats from Western Pennsylvania crossing the aisle to support it. Rep. Todd Stephens of Montgomery County is the only House Republican who opposed it.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, due back in session after Labor Day.

House Republicans indicated they expect support of the measure from Senate majority leadership, whose spokeswoman said Tuesday only that they “look forward to receiving the bill.”

FILE - In this March 10, 2020, file photo a woman votes in the presidential primary election at the the Summit View Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Mo. A Federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, April 29, 2020, that proof of citizenship requirement for Kansas voter registration is unconstitutional.

Charlie Riedel / AP Photo

FILE PHOTO: In this March 10, 2020, file photo a woman votes in the presidential primary election at the the Summit View Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Mo.

As amended Tuesday, HB2626 would require counties to start sending out ballots earlier and finalizing counts sooner. But it also would let counties start processing mailed ballots the Saturday ahead of Election Day, much later than the three weeks in the original version of the measure, a timeline favored by election directors.

County voting chiefs also want permission to assign poll workers anywhere in their home county – and that’s in the bill. But so is a more controversial provision allowing campaigns to assign poll watchers anywhere in the state, the same relief sought in a federal lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

HB2626 also calls for a mailed ballot application deadline 15 days before the election versus a week, but doesn’t address the return deadline. Currently, that’s Election Day.

Counties have been asking since 2014 for more time between the mailed ballot application and return deadlines, according to Dauphin’s election chief Jerry Feaser.

 

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