A Pennsylvania Senate bill to allow a voter to act as a poll watcher outside of his or her own county passed the State House of Representatives this week, though Governor Tom Wolf (D) said he will veto it.
Sponsored by State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg), the “Poll Watcher Empowerment Act” received the support of every Republican and no Democratic representative. When it passed the Senate earlier this month, every Republican voted for it and every Democrat voted against it except for State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Bethlehem).
The commonwealth permits poll watchers, who are appointed either by political parties or candidates, to “make good-faith challenges” to an elector’s voting eligibility, identity or residence. Not only would Mastriano’s legislation allow these observers to work in precincts outside of their home counties, it would increase the number of watchers a candidate may place at a precinct from two to three. This would mean six watchers at a precinct – including three appointed by a political party – could belong to the same partisan affiliation.
Another component of the bill guarantees that a watcher may observe ballot pre-canvassing at a “distance of six feet or less.” Republicans have complained that their watchers were not allowed to closely view the canvassing process in Philadelphia in November 2020.
Former President Donald Trump, whose post-election lawsuits included complaints pertaining to this matter, praised Mastriano’s legislation and urged Pennsylvania’s Republican-led General Assembly to follow it up with other election reforms. In his statement, he noted that the state senator is currently seeking the governorship and stressed his support of Mastriano’s campaign.
“A very strong Bill by great State Senator Doug Mastriano (hopefully the next Governor of the Commonwealth) just passed in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, The Poll Watcher Empowerment Act, which will bring transparency back to the election process and make sure there is no counting in back rooms, such as in Philadelphia, where they cheat, cheat, cheat!” Trump said. “This, and other Election Integrity measures like banning drop boxes, no private funding, Voter ID, and same day voting with paper ballots, should be tied to the State Budget. Republicans must get tough and smart if they want to win (easily) Pennsylvania!”
But supporters of the reforms Mastriano and others are offering will have to wait until at least next year – after Wolf has completed his second of the two terms the law permits him to seek – for their enactment. Wolf spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer told the press after the bill’s passage that the governor has no intention of signing the legislation.
“The administration strongly opposes this bill,” Rementer said. “It does nothing to increase access to voting and is just one more attempt by the lawmaker – who has repeatedly sought to undermine the integrity of our election process – to encourage voter intimidation. Republicans should focus their efforts on election reform measures that ensure that voters can freely and safely exercise their right to vote.”
In November, Mastriano will face Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro, who currently serves as state attorney general and who also opposes the election integrity measures Mastriano has championed.
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