HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A proposal to permit poll watchers to operate outside the counties where they live advanced Wednesday by a divided Pennsylvania House State Government Committee.
The bill had already passed the state Senate and was approved for consideration by the full House.
The poll watchers’ bill, sponsored by the current GOP gubernatorial nominee, Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, would give candidates the right to have an additional observer and post them inside, close enough to see any canvassing and pre-canvassing.
“There’s no reason to have poll watchers if they aren’t able to be in the line of sight and clearly see what’s happening,” said Republican Rep. Paul Schemel of Franklin County. Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Westmoreland, called the bill “a clear opportunity to allow voters to have enhanced confidence and belief that we’re achieving election integrity.”
But Rep. Joe Webster, D-Montgomery, called the proposal “an atrocity of a bill” that feeds mistaken suspicion and distrust of the state’s elections.
“What is really happening around bills like this is we’re intimidating enough poll workers that they’re not going to be there,” Webster said.
Conklin warned the bill was “looking for trouble” and could require additional law enforcement monitoring at all voting precincts.
Grove said that although the bill would allow candidates three poll watchers at voting places, in reality “you’re lucky to get one.”
“What this bill does is allow for the checks and balances provisions within our elections that stem back to 1937 to continue,” updated for modern needs, Grove said. The party-lines vote to advance the measure was 14-10.
The committee also advanced a bill that would move Pennsylvania’s presidential primary to March.