State Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette County, joined four other state senators on Tuesday to announce bipartisan election reform package to address various voting issues.
Speaking at the Capitol Media Center in Harrisburg, the senators discussed the package of bills expected to address such issues following meetings with county election officials, commissioners and other interested parties across Pennsylvania.
State Sen. Mike Folmar, R-Lebanon, the chairman with the State Government Committee, said one of his goals for the committee in 2019 was to bring some meaningful changes to the Pennsylvania election laws to make the process easier, more secure and hopefully save money.
“In my first meeting with county election officials, I was shocked by their comment that no state officials have worked closely with them about possible changes to Pennsylvania election laws,” Folmar said.
“We are actually listening to the people on the ground,” said Stefano. “We're talking with election bureau leaders, and they're telling me what their issues are and hearing what the problems are and the changes we need to make.”
Stefano said his sponsorship in the package includes a constitutional amendment to remove the restriction of state and federal employees acting as poll workers.
“The directors aren't able to find people to work the polls,” Stefano said. “If we want to have accessible elections, we need people to be staffing our poll locations.”
Another part of the package Stefano is sponsoring is looking to reduce the number of printed ballots as the state currently prints 100 percent of ballots for all registered voters.
Stefano said they will look at different ways to accurately measure numbers of paper ballot users for the last three years and predict how many ballots will need to be printed with some extra.
“One thing I've noticed in Pennsylvania is we don't like change,” Stefano said. “But we're finding the world is changing around us, and we need to be getting some of our codes back up and match what's going on in the world or, in some cases, we need to lead.”
Other senators and their bills include Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, with her legislation to allow anyone to vote via absentee ballots and no-excuse absentee ballots; Sen. Tom Killion, R-Delaware County, with his legislation to give counties the option of establishing voting centers so a voter can vote anywhere in the county, and curbside voting for voters with disabilities to safely and privately cast their ballot; and Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, with his constitutional amendment to eliminate provisions of having separate ballots for judicial-related questions and to change a provision to allow one write-in vote to get someone into office.
The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania supports the efforts of the senators, releasing a statement thanking the group for including county officials and election bureau directors in the discussions over the past several months.
“While much of counties’ attention recently has been focused on the need to purchase new voting equipment, we also believe there is a need for more comprehensive elections reform considerations to make sure the entire elections process remains both accessible and cost-effective,” the statement read.