GOP bill could unleash fraud-hunters at polls across Pennsylvania

During last year’s campaign, Donald Trump singled out Pennsylvania as the prime place where the election might be stolen through voter fraud.

At a rally in Mannheim, Trump urged supporters to “get everybody you know and … watch your polling booths because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas … So go and vote and then go check out areas because a lot of bad things happen.”

Those and other comments from Trump suggesting the Keystone State was rife with fraud led to fears that on Election Day, overzealous Republicans would descend on urban polling places, especially in Philadelphia, harassing and intimidating minority voters.

Those fears appear mostly not to have been borne out. One reason for that may be the state’s requirement that official poll watchers live in the county where they’re monitoring the vote. That would have made it illegal for Trump supporters in rural or exurban areas to travel to urban Democratic strongholds to act as official poll watchers.

But last week, the Pennsylvania House passed a GOP-backed measure that would eliminate the rule, allowing registered voters to be appointed as official poll watchers in any election district in the state. The result could be to unleash fraud hunters across Pennsylvania, potentially leading to intimidation of legitimate voters and delays at the polls.

Adding to concerns is the fact that Pennsylvania has some of the loosest laws in the country governing what poll watchers can do. State law allows them to watch voters check in, and to “challenge any person making application to vote and to require proof of his qualifications.” A challenged voter then must find a witness to sign an affidavit affirming the voter’s identity and residence.

Republicans tried unsuccessfully to pass the bill last fall, in time to have it in effect for the presidential election.

“If you believe there is no voter fraud in Pennsylvania, you should also want poll watchers in there to confirm everything went well and there was no cheating and there were no irregularities,” state Rep. Rick Saccone, the bill’s sponsor, told Fox News last week.

A spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, didn’t immediately respond to The Daily Democracy’s request for comment on the bill. Wolf has said there is no widespread voter fraud in the state.

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