Republicans in the Senate pushed through a bill containing two proposed amendments to the state constitution that would affect voting rights and the governor’s veto powers, in addition to tacking on a measure that would provide relief for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, which Democrats support while opposing the other two proposals.
In an underhanded attempt to appear favorable to a measure supporting childhood sexual abuse victims, Republicans in the state Senate passed a bill containing three unrelated proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania constitution Wednesday, leaving Democrats no choice but to vote against it.
The amendments include requiring voters to show ID at the poll for all elections and removing the governor’s veto power from the legislative process of overturning regulations. Both amendments were passed by the Senate State Government Committee on Monday along with another proposed amendment that would allow the state auditor general to conduct regular election audits.
Prior to Wednesday’s Senate vote, a constitutional amendment providing for relief to survivors of childhood sexual abuse was added to the bill by Republicans, prompting objections from Democrats who have long supported the measure concerning victims of child sexual abuse — including when Republicans opposed it — but oppose the other two amendments.
The bill passed by a vote of 28-20, almost entirely along party lines. The bill now goes to the narrowly divided House for consideration.
Constitutional amendments must pass through both chambers in two consecutive legislative sessions before being put on the ballot for voters to approve. All of the amendments were passed last year and, if passed again this month, would be on the ballot in the primary election on May 16.
Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) introduced SB 1, which would require voters to show identification every time they vote in the commonwealth. Currently, voters only need to show their ID when voting at a polling place for the first time.
Republican lawmakers say the amendment is needed to bolster faith in the state’s election system. Democrats have long opposed voter ID requirements, saying it could negatively impact voters of color and elderly voters who might lack proper identification.
SB 1 was amended in the State Government Committee to include the proposal to change the regulatory process to remove the governor’s veto power when lawmakers vote down a resolution. Currently, lawmakers can vote to disapprove a state regulation (such as those passed during the COVID-19 pandemic), but the governor has the power to veto it. The legislature would then need a two-thirds majority vote to override the veto.
Sen. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson), chair of the State Government Committee and an election denier, proposed the amendment to the bill.
Another proposed amendment that is awaiting a vote in the Senate is SB 130, which was introduced by Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R-Bucks). This bill would allow the state auditor general to conduct regular election audits. The proposal would prohibit the Department of State, PennDOT, and counties from withholding information necessary to conduct a full and comprehensive audit. It also requires an annual, independent audit of the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system. Currently, Pennsylvania counties carry out two types of post-election audits.
The election audit amendment was referred Wednesday to the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.
Last year, in an attempt to speed up the cumbersome amendment process, the Republican-majority state Senate lumped five different but significant changes to the constitution into one proposal. Senate Bill 106 contained the three amendments that just passed the State Government Committee in addition to an abortion ban and a proposal to make the lieutenant governor an appointed position.
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