National Democrats’ ambitious voting and ethics reform bill, HB1, passed the House on Wednesday night, and headed to the Senate on Thursday, where Vice President Kamala Harris broke a tie to end a filibuster and kick off debate on the Senate version. The House bill passed on partisan lines, with zero Republican Reps supporting it, and only one Democratic Rep voting no.
Since the 2020 election, Republican state legislators around the country have been introducing voter suppression laws at a ferocious pace, with 165 bills being introduced in thirty-three states, according to a tally by the group Let America Vote Action Fund. That’s compared to 35 bills introduced by this point in 2020.
Pennsylvania Republicans have introduced 14 bills aimed at making it harder to vote, including changes like
- Prohibiting the use of dropboxes
- Imposing voter ID requirements
- Rejecting ballots for mis-matched signatures
- Expanding voter roll purges
Reporter John Finerty at the Tribune-Democrat reports that only Arizona has seen more voter suppression bills introduced than Pennsylvania—no doubt spurred on by the state’s record turnout and pivotal role in election Joe Biden to the Presidency.
If passed into law, the bill would accomplish a whole laundry list of changes that voting rights and good government advocates have sought for years, summarized by the Brennan Center.
- Modernize Voter Registration
- Automatic Voter Registration
- Same-Day and Online Registration
- Protect Against Flawed Purges
- Restore the Voting Rights Act
- Restore Voting Rights to People with Prior Convictions
- Strengthen Mail Voting Systems
- Institute Nationwide Early Voting
- Protect Against Deceptive Practices
There’s even more, including changes to redistricting, ethics, campaign finance, and nearly every area of election law. The voting reform agenda has significant overlap with the key demands from the Keystone Votes Coalition, Pennsylvania’s non-partisan election reform coalition, and if it were to pass, it would unlock some major changes that supporters had thus far been unable to get through the State Government Committee.
It’s still unclear whether Democrats will have the votes from Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to do what’s needed to end the Senate filibuster and pass the bill, despite these changes being of existential importance for preventing long-term minoritarian governance in America, and the Democratic Party’s electoral fortunes over the next decade or more.