Committee of Seventy Statement on HR 1100
House State Government Committee
November 18, 2020
The Committee of Seventy strongly recommends against rushing forward with House Resolution 1100, a measure that would create redundant efforts to evaluate and audit Pennsylvania elections while counties are still working to certify the results of the 2020 General Election.
This General Assembly achieved in quick succession Act 77 of 2019 and Acts 12 and 35 of 2020 with strong bipartisan support, making major advances to our Commonwealth’s antiquated election law. The after-action report of the 2020 Primary Election mandated by Act 35 unfortunately was not followed by any of the needed administrative improvements to the Election Code. However, it provided a model of post-election evaluation that could be continued or developed further in consultation with local and state election officials and voter advocates.
Act 12 of 2020 created the other notable and already-existing mechanism for election evaluation and improvement: the Pennsylvania Election Law Advisory Board, all 23 members of which were unanimously confirmed by the Senate this past September. This board includes representation from the Legislature, as well as experts and local officials from across the state, and with mandate to:
- Study the Election Code and identify statutory language to repeal, modify or update;
- Collaborate with local and state officials to study election-related issues;
- Study the development of new election technology and voting machines; and
- Evaluate and make recommendations on improving the electoral process by statute or regulation and installing best practices to ensure integrity and efficiency.
With the vast majority of state election law still leftover from 1937 and American elections rapidly growing in sophistication, this body should be prepared to begin its work. Election directors performed a herculean task in executing elections this year and will assuredly -- after a break -- welcome the opportunity to offer feedback to this board and directly to lawmakers.
It is unclear why authorizing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee as yet another vehicle for election evaluation is necessary at this time, especially if a primary charge would be to conduct a risk-limiting audit of the 2020 General Election that is already scheduled to occur. Running a duplicative audit is a waste of tax dollars and adds more work to county election offices at the end of a difficult year.
We welcome open discussion and debate around Pennsylvania’s next steps in modernizing its elections during the next legislative session. Historic progress was made over the past year under extremely challenging conditions, and there remains a great deal more work to do.