Hope for Bipartisanship on PA Election Integrity
Can left and right find common ground on election integrity? The Pennsylvania business community decided to find out.
On April 14, 2022 the Back to Business PA initiative hosted the second event of its ongoing bipartisan series to discuss issues related to democracy and civic engagement from a business perspective. In this rare dialogue between political leaders from opposing parties, Pennsylvania businesses witnessed firsthand that a path towards compromise and agreement might exist to improve the Commonwealth’s election system.
In the dialogue titled Searching for Common Ground on Election Integrity: A Bipartisan Discussion, we engaged Pennsylvania legislators and business leaders in a civil discussion on why businesses want stable and accessible elections and how the state legislature can make an impact. They included State Representative Seth Grove (R-196); State Representative Scott Conklin (D-77); Jabari Jones, president of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative; and Jeff Brown, president of Brown’s Super Stores.
Representatives Grove and Conklin serve as Chairman and Democratic Chairman of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ powerful State Government Committee, which exercises primary legislative authority over the Commonwealth’s election system. While these two lawmakers have different approaches and opinions on these issues, they did find agreement on issues that are important to Pennsylvania business leaders.
Early in the conversation Jones noted that businesses value innovation and efficiency and want their state government to implement improvements to expand eligible Pennsylvanians’ access to the ballot. Grove responded by claiming Pennsylvania needs to “modernize an old, antiquated [election] system that dates back to 1937” and “expand access in numerous fronts from in-person early voting to curbside voting and trying to help disabled individuals vote.” Conklin concurred and stated “a vote is a vote. It doesn’t matter whether you cast it early.”
Jones and Brown asked about specific policies where reaching compromise can improve the Commonwealth’s election system. They noted that Back to Business PA’s supporters regularly call for their elected officials to work in a bipartisan manner across the aisle. Conklin responded by highlighting that Pennsylvania counties run elections — not the state — and that “counties are asking for early canvassing and additional funding.” Early canvassing would allow counties to begin processing and tabulating, though not actually counting, early ballots in advance of Election Day to prevent counting delays and public distrust during an election.
Grove continued with another area of bipartisan agreement, noting that “Rep. Conklin and I just introduced a bill this week and passed it out of committee that will help clean up our voter rolls. We heard from the Department of State that they don’t have access to ERIC which is the national organization that helps states compare voter lists to prevent double voting… we moved forward on that legislation and it’s slated to be voted on at the end of April.” Importantly, Grove stressed that “if you’re legally allowed to vote, you should have full access to the system.”
On election funding, the legislators agreed that counties need adequate funding to administer elections securely and effectively. Specifically, Grove said “we want to make sure we put in place policies that continue to invest and support election machines. We understand that we have to put money into elections.” Conklin concurred “one of the things that we agree on is that counties need more money to administer elections.”
The topic then turned to mail voting and the flexibility it provides the Pennsylvania workforce to vote. Grove noted the ongoing lawsuit against the bipartisan Act 77 — which established no-excuse mail voting in the Commonwealth — and that any legislation is highly unlikely to move forward until that lawsuit is settled. However, after moderator and business leader Jeff Brown stated “I find mail-in voting very convenient that I don’t have to wait in line to vote,” Grove agreed “people do like mail-in voting, they find it convenient… Long voting lines turn people away… That’s something we definitely need to fix… Require counties to look at wait times and adjust polling practices.”
On voter identification requirements, the lawmakers agreed that a potential compromise does exist to increase confidence in the system. Conklin began by highlighting that Pennsylvania already requires voters “to show an ID when you register to vote.” However, Conklin agreed with Grove that “if we sit down, we can come up with a compromise on voter ID. It is an extra layer but it doesn’t inconvenience the voter.” Grove noted that any voter identification requirement should not cost Pennsylvania residents money or create unnecessary burdens to voting. Grove mentioned “a free ID that the Pennsylvania Department of State” would provide as one option.
The Back to Business PA campaign is a partnership between the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative and Business for America, mobilizing Pennsylvania businesses to support accessible and secure elections.
To learn more and sign our letter to the PA legislature, please visit the Back to Business Pennsylvania website.