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Election reform: mail-in ballots OK

Published November 01. 2019 09:44AM

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Thursday that advocates say makes the most significant changes to modernize Pennsylvania election laws in 80 years and authorizes the state to borrow of up to $90 million to help counties buy new voting machines ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Wolf, a Democrat, said the legislation takes the nation’s least voter-friendly election laws and puts them in line with states that have the highest voter turnout.

The bill was negotiated privately by Wolf and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature. A draft first appeared last week . It passed the House and Senate on Tuesday and had the support of good-government groups.

Here is a look at its highlights:

Voter registration

Under the legislation, voters can register up to 15 days before the election. Among states, Pennsylvania’s long-standing 30-day deadline is the furthest out, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wolf had initially pushed for election-day voter registration, which some states allow.

Mail-in ballots

The legislation allows any voter to mail in a ballot for any reason, adding Pennsylvania to a group of 31 states that already do so, according to the NCSL. Previously, Pennsylvania restricted mail-in ballots to “absentee” voters who meet a narrow set of reasons laid out in the Constitution, including people who can’t vote in person because of job-related travel, religious observance, illness or physical disability.

Applications must be made available on paper or electronically and can be received up to 50 days before an election, unless a county decides it wants to receive them earlier. The deadline to receive them is when polls close, at 8 p.m. on election days.

A registered voter can ask to be placed on a permanent mail-in voting list file. Wolf had initially pushed to open polling places for early in-person voting.

Absentee ballots

With a lawsuit pending over Pennsylvania’s deadlines for counties to receive absentee ballots, the bill adjusts those deadlines to 8 p.m. on election days. Currently, the deadline is 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election, the nation’s earliest.

Straight party-ticket option

The legislation eliminating the ballot option that allows voters to push one button that selects a single political party’s candidate in each contest. That provision was a top priority of Republican lawmakers and prompted opposition from many Democratic lawmakers.

That leaves just seven states with the option, although voters in one state, Michigan, restored it by ballot referendum last year after the state’s Republican-controlled government eliminated it.

Voting machines

The bill authorizes the state to borrow up to $90 million to help counties to afford voting machines.

Wolf last year began pressing counties to buy voting machines with an auditable paper backup, contending it would bolster Pennsylvania’s election security after warnings by federal authorities that Russian hackers had targeted states during 2016’s election.

Legislative budget analysts say debt service on a 10-year bond would be about $105 million, while the total cost to counties to replace their voting systems could be about $148 million.

Counties can apply to the state for the aid, and are eligible to receive 60% of the costs of buying or leasing a new voting system. Counties could receive more than that, or less, depending on how much they submit in expenses.

Census count

The legislation authorizes $4 million in spending by the state to bolster federal census efforts, to help ensure a complete and accurate 2020 census count in Pennsylvania.

The government takes a headcount every 10 years to allocate seats in Congress and billions in federal dollars for such things as transportation projects and education. Wolf’s office says Pennsylvania would lose almost $2,100 a year in federal aid for each person who isn’t counted.

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter

Comments
Look folks, it's impressive for the Governor to care about integrity of an election, however, to borrow of up to $90 million to buy new voting machines, all based on a Fake News notion of the machines being altered, is NUTS!
Machines were never altered.
It was seen in the news in Philadelphia, a Black Panther member with a night stick, intimidating Republican voters.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Black_Panther_Party_voter_intimidation_case

Or in places like Texas, where “vote harvesting” to illegally procure votes has been prosecuted.
In Colorado, multiple instances were found of dead people attempting to vote.
Just a few examples, and please, believe false claims that voter fraud doesn’t exist, It’s real, and we must work to stop it, but it's not hacked voting machines Tom... $90M for new machines? Come on Tom... Stop it!
You are aware that having paper back up machines was a directive from Trump himself right?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-calls-for-voter-id-laws-use-of-paper-ballots-as-backup-11564510206

Are you also aware that trump's own Homeland security department notified PA that its voting systems were targeted by Russia?

https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/22/electronic-voting-state-hacking-russian-government-cyber-actors/2017/09/22/electronic-voting-state-hacking-russian-government-cyber-actors/

Are you also aware that trump's very own commission looking at voter fraud found no significant fraud in the 2016 election and disbanded?

https://apnews.com/f5f6a73b2af546ee97816bb35e82c18d
Joe,
DHS reported, "only Illinois confirmed so far". (2017)
They only claim attempted, not confirmed.
Next... Step right up folks.
Here's your paper ballet, cut corner goes up and to the right.
All based on fake news. Never a machine hacked in PA, unless you tune in to WJOE, 24 hour confusion and entertainment.
Bull crap Mike, provide the link that shows only 1 state.. I'll provide links all day to what I wrote.
https://apnews.com/cb8a753a9b0948589cc372a3c037a567

https://elections.wi.gov/node/5253

https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/politics/state/pennsylvania-voting-security-audit-russians-hack-20180611.html

etc etc etc

Attempted hacking is just as big of a concern as successful hacking. Mike doesn't want us to learn from it. He wants a successful hack before we do something apparently. Pretty shortsighted
Joe,
Wolf ordered the counties to replace the machines, the only funding available is $14.1 million in mostly federal dollars. There was no incident of hacking in PA. NONE!
Stop twisting things Joe.
Tell me how it is possible to hack a voting machines that is not connected to the internet.
Next, the system to tally... it is not connected to the internet. Come on Joe, this fiascal we went through yesterday, was intentionally, not needed, yet planned.
Mike, you like lying.

https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/Op-Ed/2018/12/16/Pennsylvania-voting-machines-are-eminently-hackable/stories/201812160035

Talk to the trump administration, it is them who are directing the states.

https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/403148-dhs-chief-calls-on-election-officials-in-all-50-states-to-have
No confirmed hack in PA. The word "may", or, hackable. Never hacked.
The bigger threat is grey voters, multiple votes, and fraud which is preventable with Voter ID.
The machines are not networked, no chance of hacking. Look at the mess we now have with these $150 Million worth of machines. The lines will be longer too. Great job governor.
Mueller Report Analysis....IRA a Russian LLC
- IRA Social Media Accounts -page 22 inset
- IRA organized and promoted rallies as U.S. grass roots -page 29 inset
- FBI Investigative technique - August 2016 the GRU targeted a Voting Tech Co. that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls and installed malware on the Co. network - page 51inset
- I make notes when I read important information Mike.
Page 499 at the end discusses the Men. Mueller and Trump the history of their lives and the different directions each took.
Holy cripes, if you read the Mueller report you would know this! Read it, don't rely on Hannity to tell you what is in it! CG even gave you the references.
There is nothing on page 51 about voting machines, not even mention Joe.
No hacking in PA... ever! Black Panther with a night stick intimidating Philadelphia voters... YES!
Dead People voting in Philadelphia and Pittsburg... Yes!
Commissioner Al Schmidt said, that voter fraud indeed exists in Philadelphia. But he said it is neither systemic nor widespread. It exists. Why no voter ID Joe? It'd be alot cheaper than buying these junk machines.
You crack me up Joe... really.
There never was a machine hack in PA. But can I ask a common sense based question?
If this legislation allows any voter to mail in a ballot for any reason, then, why don't we all just do a mail-in ballot and send these good for nothing machines the the Governor of Nonsnseville demanded we purchase, back to ES&S? Put that money towards securing a viable way to confirm the mail-ins. Oh, what say we start with voter ID first off?
Speaking of ES&S, could someone check to see how big of a check they sent the gov?
You don't know that Levite. The FBI did not disclose all that it found. And many parts in the Report were redacted. Only stupid analysis think the FBI and CIA report every fricken detail to the public. The R voters that continue to be in denial about all the help they need to win elections.
There was NEVER... EVER, a machine hacked in PA.
These machines cost taxpayers, not the governor, taxpayers big $$$$
These machines are not a good solution, but we did get them rolled out by the governors deadline.
How'd that work out folks?
NEVER a machine hacked... NOPE!

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