Wolf Vetoes Senate Bill, Saves Straight-Ticket Voting

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AFTER LONG consideration, Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoes a measure that would have allocated $90 fopr new voting machines — but with a Republican-inserted proviso to eliminate straight-ticket party voting — a move that experts judged would have hurt Democrats at the polls.

Today, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed SB 48.

“Pennsylvania must secure its elections and provide real reform that makes it easier to vote,” said Wolf. “SB 48 makes changes to our elections that I do not believe strike the right balance to improve access to voters or security. The bill weakens the ability of the commonwealth and counties to quickly respond to security needs of voting systems in the future, creating unnecessary bureaucracy and potentially harmful delays.

“Further, as we approach an election with anticipated large turnout and new voting technology, I’m concerned the isolated removal of a convenient voting option would increase waiting times and could discourage participation. I repeatedly sought improvements to this bill that would ease access to voting and decrease waiting times, but those changes were not accepted.

“National security and cybersecurity experts, including the Trump administration, are urging Pennsylvania and other states to have new voting systems with advanced security and a paper trail. Counties have embraced the need to replace voting machines to combat hacking and improve the accuracy of recounts. I applaud their dedication to protecting the integrity of our elections, and I remain committed to voting machine funding.”

The governor’s full veto message:

TO THE HONORABLE SENATE OF THE
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA:
Pursuant to Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, I am returning herewith, without my approval, SB 48, Printer’s No. 1080.

Voting is what powers and sustains our democracy. I firmly believe that both I and the General Assembly have an obligation to strive to make voting more secure and more accessible to the citizens of this Commonwealth. Unfortunately, this legislation does not seek to increase voter participation in Pennsylvania. This failure is a missed opportunity to enact meaningful voting reforms.

This legislation, while purporting to secure elections, binds the hands of future administrations through a decertification procedure which weakens the ability of the Commonwealth and counties to quickly respond to flaws that would require the decertification of large numbers of machines fewer than 180 days before an election. This is not acceptable as a legislative measure.

Finally, this bill eliminates straight party-ballot voting. This policy choice removes a convenient voting option which is used by voters of any party affiliation. To implement such a change, particularly as new machines are being used for the first time, could lead to voter confusion and longer lines at the polls. These factors may lead to decreased voter participation, which, again, is in conflict with an inclusive approach to our system of elections. I sought amendatory language at various points to include voter-friendly reforms in this legislation, but those changes were not accepted.

For the reasons set forth above, I must withhold my signature from SB 48, Printer’s No. 1080.

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