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Lawmakers like voting machine, election code reforms bill

Local lawmakers are applauding state legislation passed by both Houses that funds voting machines and makes sweeping election code reforms.

“Since Governor Wolf’s unilateral and unprecedented decision to require all counties to purchase new voting machines last year, the General Assembly has been pushing to provide funding to the counties for those new machines and at the same time update our outdated election code,” said Everett. “This bipartisan bill creates the most significant improvements to our elections in more than 80 years. It’s a giant leap forward that makes voting more convenient for millions of Pennsylvanians and improves our election security.”

Everett voted in favor of Senate Bill 421 which, among other provisions, eliminates the straight-party ballot option, provides $4 million for census outreach to ensure all citizens are counted, and allows state residents to vote by mail and to turn in absentee ballots by 8 p.m. of an election day.

Those provisions become effective for the 2020 election.

“The most important thing in the bill is the funding for the counties,” state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said. “So I was happy about that. It was a bipartisan negotiated bill.”

The omnibus bill requires counties to begin updating voter registration rolls and remove names of voters who no longer reside in the county.

Everett noted that Senate Bill 421 came to the House as legislation to simply eliminate straight-party voting. The additional election code provisions were added in the House State Government Committee, chaired by Everett, and the funding provisions were added by the House Appropriations Committee.

“I am proud to have been part of this effort and want to give a ‘shout out’ to Forrest Lehman, the director of Elections and Registration in Lycoming County, for all his help in crafting this legislation,” he added. “Too many times, Harrisburg enacts legislation that just will not work in the real world. Forrest was able to help us to achieve our goals of making voting more convenient and secure without making it impossible to implement for folks like him in county voting offices and poll workers across the state.”

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, also sees the legislation as a win for the state.

“Part of this whole thing is that it supports raising money for helping counties to switching voting machines,” he said.

He noted the provision for eliminating straight party voting, which almost all other states have done with their ballots.

“I think it (bill) puts a lot of issues to bed we had with elections,” he added.

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