In a never ending nihilistic orgy, Republicans in Pennsylvania’s State legislature have proposed yet another ‘assault-on-liberty‘ piece of election legislation. The latest entry in the race to destroy the Republican Party is named Senate Bill 878.
The Republican history of insane election bills is rich, indeed. It begins with Act 77, a bill for which there was no popular demand, that needn’t have been proposed and yet gave away the crown jewel of voting to the Democrats – no excuse mail in ballots. Who knows what deals were made by House and Senate leadership for that one. They say they got the elimination of straight ticket voting in return. That’s a worse deal than the Lenape Indians made for Manhattan Island.
Pennsylvania’s Republican leadership and Republican Representatives and Senators have yet to take any responsibility or ownership of the Act 77 catastrophe. In fact, some still think it was a good deal.
In an attempt to repair the damage that no one admits occurred, the House Government Committee held a dozen or more hearings on a new bill, declining to take testimony from ‘riff raff’ such as County Chairmen, the PAGOP, the PAGOP Election Review Committee and those dealing directly with the ground level process and taking the brunt of the ground level discontent..
When HB 1300 finally emerged, it was a huge disappointment. It maintained the no-excuse mail-in ballots, it still permitted satellite election offices, it provided weak eligibility to vote requirements, it allowed drop boxes which are the gateway to fraud, it allowed pre-canvassing, it allowed early in-person voting and it allowed extensive ballot curing.
HB 1300 was not received well at all. When compared to Act 77, it was viewed as a difference without distinction. Why waste the time, many asked? If we are going to pass a bill, why not pass one that that actually fixes something? HB 1300 is warmed over Act 77.
Members of the House made matters worse by trying to explain that they were seeking something that the Governor might negotiate or might sign. Anything stronger, anything that contained meaningful Voter ID, did away with drop boxes or did away with mail in voting would face certain veto, our legislators said. The response from the rank and file was a pretty solid “So what? Bring it on.” The question was and is why are we worried about placating a Governor with whom we cannot negotiate and who will not agree to anything we want? At that point, we are merely negotiating with ourselves.
Again it appeared that House members had not yet grasped the mood of the rank and file; they did not understand the depth of the anger or they were simply in denial.
Then along comes SB 878, dropped quietly on a Friday afternoon. With all that preceded the introduction of this bill one must seriously ask if anyone in the Senate was watching what happened to HB 1300 and what has been going on with the “Audit the Vote” movement? Does anyone in the Senate realize that Act 77, HB 1300 and Audit the Vote are connected? They are all connected through the very real suspicion that no-excuse and often uncontrolled mail-in ballots, lack of meaningful voter ID, drop boxes, dirty registration rolls, satellite election offices and various forms of early voting and early canvassing are all tied to opportunity for ballot fraud?
The growing mass of rank and file voters who want a meaningful audit simply do not believe the media, the liberals and a growing cadre of their own party’s leaders who are trying to tell them, “move along, nothing to see here.” They will not settle for anything less than a meaningful audit and they will not go away. The recent ploy to hand Senator Mastriano’s Committee to Senator Dush and call the effort an “investigation” is possibly the worst strategy imaginable in the current circumstance. That sends a clear message to those who want real answers that they will not be getting any and it serves as a serious insult to more moderate Republicans that the Senate leadership cares more about appearance and appeasing Governor Wolf and Southeast Pennsylvania than it does the real Republican base.
To put the exclamation point on that tone deaf strategy, a few weeks after they went from audit to investigation, the Senate introduced SB 878, a companion piece of garbage for HB 1300. Senators Argall and his committee will try to tell us that there are many good things in the bill. Whether there are or are not makes no difference because they are overwhelmed by the bad things and by the time SB 878 and HB 1300 are reconciled, Lord only knows what we will be left with but you can bet that the worst of each will remain because those are the common denominators.
SB 878 continues no-excuse mail-in voting with its non-existent chain of custody, allows an absentee ballot to be obtained and voted at an election office on the same day, allows drop boxes whose only supervision is TV monitoring (what good does that do when someone dumps 100 ballots in at a time? Which 100 ballots were they?). It speaks of properly filling out absentee ballots and envelopes but says nothing about what happens if they are not properly filled out. It doesn’t say anything about how many or where drop boxes may be established. The definition of where persons observing pre-canvassing may be located is not very definitive and appears subject to abuse.
Other recommendations of the Senate Committee never made it to the Bill such as meaningful voter ID. Never even mentioned were cleaning up and maintaining the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) System which is a major source of fraud, ballot curing, supervising voting at care facilities and prohibiting private funds in election operations.
Collectively, HB 1300 and SB 878 demonstrate either an incredible level of arrogance and disdain on the part of our elected officials or an amazing level of tone deafness and lack of connection with their constituencies. In either case, there is a remarkable lack of leadership on display.
Free and fair elections are the heart of our Republic. Looking at HB 1300 and SB 878, it would not appear that the Republicans in our legislature understand this principle. We need new laws, and new legislators. Not another legislative scam.