Hope for Election Reform Bills Dies as Wolf Won’t Address Security Concerns

Member Group : Center Square

{The Center Square) – Hope for a bipartisan deal on election reform faded Monday as both Gov. Tom Wolf and the House Republican Caucus blamed each other for abandoning the talks.

“I understand they put out a press release saying that it’s dead,” Wolf told reporters Monday. “So I’m taking them at their word.”

Jason Gottesman, House GOP spokesperson, in a statement issued just before the governor’s news conference, said that negotiations broke down over the administration’s unwillingness to address the caucus’s security concerns. Wolf blamed the dissolution on Republicans’ refusal to move far enough beyond the three-day pre-canvasing timeline written into House Bill 2626.

In the six weeks since, Republican leaders and the governor’s administration have made little progress toward a deal, despite broad agreement that election code changes – including the ability for poll workers to pre-canvass mail-in ballots ahead of Nov. 3 to avoid delayed results – should happen.

Wolf proposed 21 days for pre-canvassing and said Senate leaders committed to as many as six or seven days, but that House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, would not budge beyond “four or five days.”

“Given that the governor has not put anything on the table that can get through our caucus and has once again removed himself from the process of discussing the issue, we have no plans at this time to consider changes to the Election Code that will affect the upcoming election,” Gottesman said.

Wolf said there’s still time for a bill, even as county election officials warn that any deal now would just lead to further confusion at the polls.

“Both the Senate and the House are in town this week,” Wolf said. “If the will were there, we could do something this week. As long as we aren’t doing this after 7 a.m. on Election Day, anything that we decide would be a benefit to the counties. So yeah, there is time.”

Gottesman argued that Wolf’s narrative of dealing in good faith doesn’t add up.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.