So you might be surprised to find out that widespread voting by mail in Pennsylvania.was once something Republicans and Democrats agreed on.
“It was one of the most bi-partisan pieces of legislation I’ve seen move through Harrisburg in recent years,” said Al Schmidt of the non-partisan Committee of Seventy.
In 2019, well before the COVID-19 pandemic was part of our vocabulary, Pennsylvania lawmakers undertook an effort to broaden access to the polls.
The compromise they ultimately struck was known as Act 77, a bill that made mail-in voting an option for every citizen – no excuse needed.
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“It was passed by a Republican House and a Republican Senate, and signed by a Democratic governor,” said Schmidt.
Almost immediately, fueled in large part by the pandemic shutdowns, its popularity exploded.
“We went from nearly zero to 50 percent, which is extraordinary, right out of the gate,” said Schmidt.
For election officials like Schmidt, that’s a home run for voter engagement.
But then, just as quickly, their popularity took a turn as former President Donald Trump disparaged mail voting as rife with fraud – a claim consistently rejected by courts across America.
“The same lawmakers who passed Act 77 sued to reverse it, and the largely partisan damage was done,” said Schmidt
Making for a reality in which Republicans are less likely to vote by mail than Democrats.
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But fair election advocates want anyone on either side who may be skeptical to know this: voting by mail is not only safe, they say, but requires a level of voter authentication that voting in person does not.
“When you apply, you need the last four of your Social Security number or a driver’s license number. There are safeguard built into this process… to maintain the integrity of the process,” said Schmidt
If you plan to vote by mail, you must request the ballot by this Tuesday, May 10 and it has to be in the hands of elections officials by primary day, which is May 17.
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