In the daily Update of legislative activity from the Pennsylvania General Assembly, we note that two new bills pertaining to elections laws were introduced yesterday in the State’s House of Representatives.
Representative Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh County) has introduced House Bill 1474. As he described it in an introductory memorandum to his fellow legislators: “In Pennsylvania, there is a varying process regarding the filing of candidate finance reports for statewide and local candidates. Statewide legislative and judicial office candidates file campaign finance reports with the Department of State, which are then posted on the department’s publicly accessible website. Local candidates file their finance reports with their respective county Board of Elections, and voters must contact each county to view each finance report. This discrepancy results in inefficiency and places an undue burden on voters.” In an effort to enhance transparency in the voting process, his bill would require all county Board of Elections to file these reports with the Department of State for publication on the department’s publicly accessible website within 30 days of receipt of all local candidates’ campaign finance reports. The bill has been referred to the Committee on State Government.
Representative Matthew Dowling (R-Fayette and Somerset Counties) has introduced House Bill 1506. He explained in an introductory memorandum that voters may learn only days before an election that, for whatever reason, they might not be able to go to the polls to cast their ballots in person. When that happens, they can vote by absentee ballot. But, the Election Code provides that the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is the Tuesday of the week before an election. When the request is received, Election officials must mail the ballot to the voter, and the voter must fill it out and return it by 5 p.m. of the Friday immediately preceding the election, lest it not be counted. That possibility of disenfranchisement is the focus of Dowling’s bill, which would extend the timeline so that a legally cast absentee ballot received by 5 p.m. on the Monday prior to election day will be counted. The bill would also allow counties to begin mailing absentee ballots as early as the fourth Tuesday prior to an election. The b ill has been referred to the Committee on State Government for consideration.
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