On June 10, the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It was the culmination of the most extensive legislative election oversight hearings in the country, consisting of 10 hearings over four months, 52 expert testifiers–including members of the Wolf administration–over 30 hours of total hearing time, and a 99-page report.
The bill sought to address three broad issues concerning the protection of every Pennsylvanian’s voting rights: increased access, increased security and election modernization. The 150-page bill was the largest election reform proposal in the country dating back to 2001, and the largest election reform proposal in the Commonwealth’s history dating back to the Pennsylvania Election Code of 1937.
Prior to formally drafting the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act, I personally reached out to Gov. Tom Wolf’s—now former—chief of staff to arrange a meeting to discuss negotiating election legislation. During that 15-minute meeting he committed to putting a negotiation team together. I never heard back from him or anyone else in the Wolf administration.
Wanting to do my best to reach a negotiated product and engage with the governor, I even sent him a personal letter requesting a meeting and, as a last ditch effort, attended an election reform-related press conference he held in Delaware County to see if we could meet and discuss the legislation.
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Gov. Wolf had 63 days to negotiate election legislation with the General Assembly from April 23, when I talked to his ex-chief of staff, to the Senate passing the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act at the end of June. He never once attempted to engage in a conversation in those two months to forge a compromise.
His refusal to engage with lawmakers is failed leadership.
When you are at the polls this fall, keep this in mind: If you have to wait more than 30 minutes to cast your vote; if you have to wait days past election night to find out who won; if disability rights organizations continue to sue county election offices because polling locations are not ADA accessible; if mail-in ballots are thrown out because voters are not given the chance to fix simple mistakes, it is all happening because Gov. Wolf refused to work with anyone.
Any and all election issues voters face from now on are his responsibility.
Nevertheless, the General Assembly will continue to lead. The Senate has already passed a constitutional amendment to provide voter identification requirements for in-person voting and any other form of voting. Amending the Pennsylvania Constitution is a direct conversation between the General Assembly and the people of the commonwealth, bypassing a governor who is now defined by obstinance. And we already know voter identification has a 74%, bipartisan approval rating among all voters.
While constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive legislative sessions, we can and will place voter identification on the ballot for the May primary in 2023.
Gov. Wolf owned the refusal to work with members of the General Assembly to reach a compromise on comprehensive election reform and modernization. As a result, the voters and counties who administer our elections will continue to suffer. Pennsylvanians deserved better, and my colleagues and I in the Legislature will continue to endeavor to enact the reforms they need.
Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) represents the 196th District in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He is the majority chairman of the House State Government Committee and is the architect of House Bill 1300.