How states like Pennsylvania conduct their elections has become as contentious as the political campaigns themselves. What impact is the battle over balancing voter access and ballot security having in Pennsylvania’s purple environs of the Delaware Valley?
In Washington, where the ‘For the People’ Act (H.R. 1/S.1) passed the House but failed to move forward in the Senate, the Delaware Valley delegation fell straight down party lines: Every Democrat voted for the sweeping new federal legislation, while Republicans Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Sen. Pat Toomey opposed it.
Now the Biden Department of Justice has announced it’s going to intervene, filing a lawsuit against the state of Georgia over its new voter integrity law. The Biden administration says the law is discriminatory while Republicans claim the decision to sue is a dangerous act of “politicizing” the justice system.
Meanwhile, the larger question remains: Should election issues like dates, counting late ballots and voter ID be made at the state level, as Republicans say; or should Washington, D.C. impose rules Democrats believe are needed to protect voting rights?
Delaware Valley Journal asked local U.S. Senate candidates for their views.
“S.1 was a laughable attempt by beltway liberals to put Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, and AOC in charge of Pennsylvania’s elections,” said Republican Jeff Bartos. “S.1 was just the latest attempt by the radical left to seize more power. I’m glad it died a very public death in the Senate – our nation is better for it.”
However, Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), competing in the 2022 Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat, have a very different view:
“Right now, Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to make it harder to vote, and we can’t waste a single minute stopping those efforts in their tracks,” said Arkoosh. “We need the For The People Act now more than ever to protect and expand this fundamental right, and reform campaign finance to increase transparency and limit the influence of corporate money in our politics. It’s clear that doing that important work will be nearly impossible without eliminating the filibuster, and in the Senate, I would vote to abolish that tool of obstruction so we can actually get things done for Pennsylvanians, like critical voting rights legislation.”
Kenyatta said, “Democracy is a fragile thing. Across the country, including in Pennsylvania, the very same people who tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election are now rewriting the rules to make it harder to vote and easier for their parties to win. I would absolutely vote to pass SR1 so that every voter can make their voices heard. We won’t go back to the days of Jim Crow, and we won’t let the same bad actors who tell lie after lie about the 2020 election have any hand in writing elections laws. Our democracy must work for working people.”
Democrats Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon of Delaware County, Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County, and Chrissy Houlahan of Chester County all backed the ‘For The People’ Act.
And just after her vote, Scanlon said in a tweet: “Last night we answered America’s call to return power to the people by passing #HR1. Proud that it includes my bills to: Increase access to drop boxes increase transparency of inaugural funds; make voting more accessible for people with disabilities and college students.”
Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick voted against the bill, which passed in the House along party lines.
“Our nation is demanding that we unite to restore, not further erode, faith and trust in our elections and institutions,” he tweeted. “This morning, I spoke on the House Floor in opposition to HR 1, a bill that is written to benefit politicians, not the people.”
Sen. Pat Toomey, who’s not running for re-election next year, tweeted: “S.1 is a power grab that would effectively nullify state voter ID laws, mandate public funding of political campaigns and transform the Federal Election Commission into a partisan body empowered to limit free speech. This is a bad bill, which is why I voted no.”
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey tweeted in response, “The right to vote is not partisan. Calling legislation designed to protect it a ‘power grab’ is insulting to the civil rights leaders & activists who were beaten & killed defending it.”