Re­ject poll watcher bill

The Citizens' Voice - - Editorial -

The state House Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity that has brought about yet an­other down­grade of the state’s cred­it­wor­thi­ness, by re­fus­ing to pass an hon­est bud­get, ap­par­ently has been dis­tracted. It has a con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to pass a bal­anced bud­get, but a po­lit­i­cal pri­or­ity to sup­press vot­ing.

Tues­day, House Speaker Mike Turzai, an Al­legheny County Repub­li­can and chief ar­chi­tect of the bud­get im­passe, ad­journed rather than con­duct a vote on a key part of the bud­get debate. Amid grow­ing bi­par­ti­san sup­port for a sev­er­ance tax on nat­u­ral gas to help fund the bud­get, Turzai and his lead­er­ship have locked in com­mit­tee a bill to es­tab­lish the tax. Mem­bers moved Tues­day for a dis­charge pe­ti­tion, which would bring the bill to the floor for debate and a vote with­out com­mit­tee ap­proval, prompt­ing Turzai to ad­journ the day’s pro­ceed­ings.

Law­mak­ers did hang around long enough to pass a bill on a non-ex­is­tent prob­lem, in the cause of in­tim­i­dat­ing cer­tain vot­ers.

Dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Don­ald Trump claimed that the state vote would be rigged against him by fraud in “cer­tain” vot­ing districts — mean­ing largely Demo­cratic and African-Amer­i­can Philadel­phia — and called upon his sup­port­ers to watch polling there.

Many of those sup­port­ers heard that racist dog whis­tle and planned to ap­pear at the sup­pos­edly sus­pect polling places, but were thwarted by sound state law. It pre­cludes poll watch­ers from do­ing so out­side their own coun­ties.

The dog whis­tle lin­gered on the breeze, how­ever. Tues­day, the House Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity passed a bill, 106-91, that would al­low any­one in the state to be ap­pointed as a poll watcher at any polling place in the state. The pur­pose of the bill is not to en­able Philadel­phi­ans to check out vot­ing in Coud­er­sport.

Sup­port­ers con­tend that the measure would not re­sult in in­tim­i­da­tion be­cause such in­tim­i­da­tion is a crim­i­nal of­fense by state law, and poll watch­ers are al­lowed only to ob­serve. They may not in­ter­vene in the process or speak to vot­ers.

That view, how­ever, is based in the the­ory that in­tim­i­da­tion some­how is lim­ited to speech or phys­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion in the process. When there is no valid rea­son for some­one to be scop­ing a polling place far from his home, his pres­ence alone is in­tim­i­dat­ing.

The Se­nate should re­ject this dog of a bill. And if it doesn’t, Gov. Tom Wolf quickly should veto it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.