Senate Builds on Judy Ward Constitutional Amendment Proposal with Comprehensive Voter Rights Bill to Transform Election System, Restore Faith

(HARRISBURG) – The Pennsylvania Senate today built on Senator Judy Ward’s (R-30) proposed voter verification constitutional amendment by passing a comprehensive voter rights bill designed to transform our election system and restore public confidence in the outcome of elections.

“As I said repeatedly during the many debates on the Constitutional amendment, our democratic system cannot function properly if such a significant number of people have lost faith in elections,” Senator Ward said. “The Voting Rights Protection Act is designed to transform our election system and restore the public’s faith and confidence in the outcome of future elections. The reforms are based on the principles of improving voter access, boosting election security, and assisting counties.”

The Voting Rights Protection Act (House Bill 1300) is a wide-ranging plan that expands access, boosts election security and helps counties administer elections in an accurate and more timely manner. The bill protects voting access by:

  • Establishing an early voting period to begin in 2025;
  • Allowing voters with disabilities to move the front of the line at polling places;
  • Providing for and securing election drop boxes; and
  • Setting standards for counting all votes including allowing non-fatal defects on mail-in ballots, such as unsigned or undated ballots to be corrected.

The bill expands election security by:

  • Ensuring voter identification through an updated county-provided voter registration card;
  • Creating an election fraud hotline;
  • Banning private donations to counties for election administration; and
  • Doubling penalties for Election Code violations.

The package contains critical reforms requested by counties to help elections run more smoothly. This includes changing voter registration and mail-in ballot deadlines, as well as giving counties more time before Election Day to count mail-in votes.

The bill also establishes a state Bureau of Election Audits that will be required to conduct ballot comparison audits to compare machine ballots to voter ballots; ballot-polling audits that will select ballots at random for individual review; and performance audits on county and state election systems every five years.

The Voting Rights Protection Act now goes to Gov. Wolf’s desk. He will have 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

 

Contact: Cheryl Schriner