Governor Wolf: Compromise Makes Pennsylvania Elections More Convenient and Secure
October 29, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf’s goal of making elections more convenient and accessible for voters came to fruition today with the passage of a bipartisan compromise, Senate Bill 421, into law. Governor Wolf expects to sign the bill in the coming days.
The legislation provides voters new options and conveniences, including vote-by-mail, an extended 50-day mail-in voting period, a permanent mail-in voter list, and more time to register to vote and submit ballots by mail. The new law also authorizes a $90 million bond to help counties fund the purchase of new voting systems with a paper trail that will enhance election security.
“This is a major advancement for elections in Pennsylvania,” said Governor Wolf. “While I understand the concerns about eliminating the straight party ticket option, this bipartisan bill creates the most significant improvements to our elections in more than 80 years. Pennsylvania has gone from collectively being the state least friendly to voters to a national leader in voting and election security reforms. It’s a giant leap forward that makes voting more convenient for millions of Pennsylvanians and improves our election security.”
The changes include:
• A new no-excuse vote-by-mail option that allows all voters to use this convenient option, removing barriers under current law;
• The longest vote-by-mail window in the country, a 50-day period before the election for all voters to request and submit a ballot by mail;
• 15 additional days to register to vote, cutting the current registration blackout period before the election in half and making Pennsylvania one of the most flexible, voter-friendly voter registration states;
• A new permanent mailing list for voters allowing voters to request to automatically receive an application by mail for a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot each year;
• Extended deadlines for voters to submit absentee or mail-in ballots up until 8:00 p.m. on the day of the election. The current deadline is the most restrictive absentee ballot deadline in the country at 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the election, resulting in thousands of ballots being ineligible each election;
• Making the online application for absentee ballots put in place by Governor Wolf part of law.
“To rebuild trust in our government, we need fair and accessible elections for all citizens from our rural communities to the big cities,” said Governor Wolf. “Modernizing our elections removes barriers to the voting booth and will hopefully encourage more people to participate in our elections.”
Earlier this year, Governor Wolf announced Pennsylvanians would be able to request absentee ballots online for the first time. In his first term, Pennsylvania launched online voter registration, which more than 1.4 million Pennsylvanians have used since 2015.
Pennsylvania joins 31 states with no-excuse voting by mail options and becomes the 12th state that automatically mails either an absentee ballot or ballot application to residents who have signed up to receive a ballot every election. Providing more time to register to vote encourages voter participation. By cutting the registration deadlines in half, Pennsylvania will have shorter registration deadlines than 24 states. A recent study found an additional 3 to 4 million people would have been able to register had the deadlines been extended.
Pennsylvania ranks 25th for voter participation with 51 percent of the eligible population voting in the 2018 election.
NOTE: These changes will not impact the November 5, 2019 election.