Introduced by Pennsylvania State Representative Seth Grove and Republican colleagues, PA HB1800 is a bill that makes broad changes to election law in the state. Grove says the ‘Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act’ brings “increased security and modernization,” while critics have called it a “partisan attack on the right to vote.”
Audit the Vote PA (ATVPA), who has led in petitioning for a full forensic audit in the state, notes that HB1800 is a “re-branded” reintroduction of HB1300 and says that it should be vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf as was the original. Look Ahead America stated that HB1300 “had some weaknesses” but did include three of its six public policy objectives for election reform.
HB1800 amends the Pennsylvania Election Code to establish a ‘Bureau of Election Audits’ to conduct “risk-limiting” audits that are “statistically sound,” audit election machine logs, and post the results online. The Bureau would also have the latitude to conduct “any other audit deemed necessary.” The Department of State would be able to develop a “corrective action plan” based on the resulting report.
The bill further defines duties and powers of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to include receiving all private donations for election administration or voter education. Those funds would be distributed across the state based on the census results after approval by the Election Law Advisory Board. The Secretary must also “create and maintain a tracking system” for mail-in or absentee ballots from start to finish while maintaining counts of all types, both sent, received, and counted.
HB1800 gives the Secretary authority to “examine and reexamine voting machines.” It mandates they be auditable and open source—but only those purchased after 2024. It requires the use of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and the National Change of Address (NCOA) database to cross-check voter rolls.
A ‘Voter’s Bill of Rights’ is established by the bill, which states that:
“Each registered voter in [the] Commonwealth shall have the right to:
(1) Vote and have his or her vote accurately counted.
(2) Cast a vote if he or she is in line at the time of the closing of polls.
(3) Ask for and receive assistance in voting.
(4) Receive up to two replacement ballots if he or she makes a mistake prior to the ballot being cast.
(5) Receive an explanation if his or her registration or identity is in question.
(6) Cast a provisional ballot if his or her registration or identity is in question.
(7) Receive written instructions to use when voting and, upon request, oral instructions from elections officers to use when voting.
(8) Vote free from coercion or intimidation by elections officers or any other person.
(9) Vote on a voting system that is in working condition and that will allow votes to be accurately cast and accurately counted.
(10) Any other rights as provided by Federal, State or local law.”
Elderly and disabled voters are additionally allowed to the front of the line at the polling place.
Changes to the duties and pay of election workers, the implementation and appointment of county elections boards, and the policy and procedure related to absentee, provisional, and early voting ballots are among the many subjects of this 183-page bill.
ATVPA has also criticized Senate Bill 552 as well as Senator Chris Dush, who introduced it. Along with Dush, the bill was introduced by fellow Republican Senators Wayne Langerholc and Michele Brooks in April; it passed and was sent to the house for consideration on Sept. 22. It is a proposed modification of Pennsylvania’s ‘Right-to-know’ law, which is the state’s version of the Freedom of Information (FOIA) laws that aim to ensure that the public has access to government records and documentation. The change would allow agencies an exception from releasing records when they successfully petition that the request amounts to an “unreasonable burden” or is “intended to harass” or is otherwise received from a “vexatious requester.”
Chris Dush is the man who has taken over efforts into auditing the General election of 2020 after Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman’s surprising ousting of Senator Doug Mastriano. Mastriano previously had sent subpoenas to three populous counties for what would be needed to conduct a full forensic audit.
ATVPA pointed out that Dush has put up a website at PAElectionInvestigation.com, where Pennsylvanians can submit testimony for sworn affidavits that could lead to testimony at a future hearing. The site hosts the subpoena the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee has approved to be sent to the PA Department of State for a set of materials much more limited in scope to what was requested under Mastriano.
Mastriano and Dush attended the Maricopa, Arizona audit together and toured with Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan. Dush is a Master Sargeant in the U.S. Air Force with a background as Chief of Information Protection for Pennsylvania’s Air National Guard. He said of Maricopa that he’s “never seen anything quite like it.”
Under a Q&A section on Dush’s site, the question “Will you do the same type of audit as Arizona?” is addressed with the answer:
“Although we have learned valuable lessons from Arizona, the process will differ in many ways. As soon as a vendor is identified, we will work with them to determine best practices and allow the investigation to follow wherever the evidence leads.“
To which ATVPA responded:
“That’s a really weird way of saying you aren’t doing a full forensic investigation.”