A Pennsylvania state senator this week announced he will soon reintroduce legislation he proposed last session to end use of election drop boxes and satellite offices.
In a memorandum asking colleagues to cosponsor his bill, Senator Cris Dush (R-Bellefonte) characterized drop boxes where voters can deposit absentee ballots as fraught with security problems. Lawmakers never enacted a law authorizing counties to set up the receptacles, but the commonwealth’s Democrat-controlled executive branch issued guidance to counties in 2020 permitting drop boxes’ usage.
Dush cited video footage, referenced in a 2022 report by then-Pennsylvania House State Government Chairman Seth Grove (R-York), showing alleged recent instances of “ballot harvesting,” a practice whereby one individual deposits multiple voters’ ballots. The report suggested the activity occurred in Philadelphia, Lackawanna and Lehigh counties. Republicans in Montgomery County have also alleged that ballot harvesting happened in their locale.
The senator further complained in his memo that satellite offices — locations where people can complete their vote sheets and submit them — “are essentially functioning as polling locations.”
“Satellite offices and drop boxes have proven problematic in Pennsylvania elections,” Dush wrote. “There is an overwhelming amount of video evidence showing that ballot stuffing is still a problem in Pennsylvania. Our own governor admitted that he had someone else submit his ballot on his behalf.”
Dush was referring to Governor Josh Shapiro’s (D) successor Tom Wolf (D), who admitted publicly that his wife delivered his absentee ballot, an action not permitted by state law.
The senator’s legislation got the support of all Republicans when it passed his chamber last session, but the bill failed to receive a vote in the GOP-run House of Representatives. Chances the measure will get a House vote have dimmed considerably since last autumn as Democrats won a majority of House seats.
And even if Republicans could somehow get the bill through both chambers, they would still need Shapiro to sign it. The governor however strongly supports drop boxes.
Matthew Germer, a fellow at the center-right R Street Institute, told The Daily Star he believes lawmakers should focus their election-reform efforts elsewhere, defending drop boxes as “a safe, secure and important part of our absentee voting system.” He added that ballots tend not to reach county election boards as quickly when they move via the Postal Service.
“Pushing more absentee voters to drop off ballots in the mail increases the time it takes for ballots to arrive and adds additional strain to the Postal Service,” he stated in an email. “Pennsylvanians could have quicker election results if lawmakers bolstered the network of drop boxes with more convenient locations and trustworthy processing and oversight.”
Germer further opined that absentee voting has become less problematic than it was in 2005 when Democratic former President Jimmy Carter and Republican former Secretary of State James Baker coauthored a report warning mail-in voting was especially vulnerable to fraud.
More efficient ballot processing and tracking as well as improved anti-tampering measures “have made absentee voting much more secure and reliable, which is why experts support it as a way to make voting more convenient and why I, myself, prefer to vote absentee,” he said.
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