June 18, 2021
Election reform: Partisan bill = no law

The sprawling election-reform bill proposed by PA House State Government Committee Chair Seth Grove (R-York) advanced out of his committee this week with no Democratic support; if it comes to the floor, it’ll likely pass on another party line vote and with Gov. Wolf’s promise to veto it. Senate Rs and Ds have a chance to craft a bill both sides can live with to send back to the House. Otherwise, nothing will get done and county election officials will remain unable to process mail-in ballots before election day. They’ll also still have to scramble to find poll workers who will still have to use cumbersome paper poll books. And mail-in voters each election who make trivial mistakes while returning their ballots (lacking a date or secrecy envelope) will still have their votes rejected.
  • Seventy says: For the sake of the thousands of Pennsylvanians disenfranchised under current law and our overworked election officials, we must keep working to find common ground and agreement. Read our letter to lawmakers.
Voter ID, signature matching are popular but create risks

A voter identification requirement might be the biggest lightening rod for opponents of GOP election-reform proposals, but it’s broadly popular among voters—and not just Republicans. A Franklin & Marshall College poll released this week finds that 74% of all voters support it, including 62% of independents and even 47% of Democrats (95% of Rs back it). And a signature-matching requirement for mail-in ballots is even more popular (81% overall). More important are the actual consequences of a given policy and the problem being solved. So lawmakers should keep in mind that voter impersonation is exceedingly rare both in person and by mail, and strict security measures will exact costs far greater than the benefits. Workable, low-risk voter identification and mail-in ballot verification policies exist but take time and resources to implement. Poorly designed and executed, they can disenfranchise thousands.
  • GOP looks to the Constitution: PA Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair) and Rep. Jeff Wheeland (R-Lycoming) have introduced bills that would enshrine voter ID in the state Constitution, circumventing a gubernatorial veto. Seventy strongly opposes such a move.
Ranked-choice voting takes center stage

Early voting is already underway in New York City’s lively June 22 Democratic mayoral primary, the first election in the nation’s largest city to be held with ranked-choice voting. And with eight candidates in the race—and no runaway favorite—it’s almost a textbook example of RCV’s usefulness in sorting out voter preferences better than traditional, first-past-the-post systems. But not immediately: Should the latest polling prove to be accurate, it’ll take 12 digital “rounds” to get the winner over the 50% threshold. It’s the format’s biggest stage in the U.S., so far, and PEW reports that it has been gaining momentum nationwide.
Caught our eye
Election officials are under attack: The Bipartisan Policy Center and the Brennan Center for Justice published a report on the state of the election official profession and the toll of the unprecedented attacks on these officials’ authority, credibility, and personal safety that surged in the run-up to the 2020 election and have continued.
Lauren Vidas’ City Hall Roll Call, powered by the Committee of Seventy, provides a detailed accounting of the latest from City Council each week Council is in session. To read the latest roundup or get it delivered straight to your inbox, click here.
On our radar
Last one to go, turn out the lights: The Associated Press reports that about a third of PA’s county election officials have left in the last year and a half, citing heavy workloads and rampant misinformation related to voting among the reasons.
Nine in 20 of us identify as independents. Why are we still so polarized? Many “independents” might be Independent in Name Only, but the fact that they won’t formally take sides is telling in itself, The Fulcrum suggests.
Heave-ho for Philly pols? A GOP bill to enable Philadelphia voters to recall municipal elected officials was approved by the PA House State Government Committee this week. It would apply only to Philly and received no support from Ds.
Voting bills rattle disabled voters: Legislation across the country would restrict voting methods and accommodations that people with disabilities are disproportionately likely to rely on, The New York Times reports.
Why has local news collapsed? Politico blames readers. “Despite all the impassioned pleas to salvage local news coverage, the reality is there’s a demand-side problem.”
PSERS scandal: All you need to know: Spotlight PA compiles its reports on the FBI probe of PA’s public-school pension fund and the reasons behind it.
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Civic Unity: What You Can Do
Tues., June 29, 6-7 pm

Join the Carpenters’ Company of Philadelphia for a virtual panel discussion exploring how ordinary citizens can foster civic unity in our politics and our communities. Moderated by Morgan Robinson, the president of Young Involved Philadelphia. Our panelists are Elizabeth Clay Roy, president and CEO of the national civic-engagement organization Generation Citizen; C70 chief program officer and League of Women Voters of Philadelphia president Lauren Cristella; and Jarrett Smith, YIP's programming co-chair. They’ll focus on steps ordinary people can take to change the political discourse and improve their communities. Register.
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