Republican lawmakers are poised to pass a bill allowing election monitors to be bused around the state to watch, and potentially challenge, voters at the polls. It’s an effort that echoes themes raised by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. In an Aug. 12 campaign visit in Altoona, Trump suggested that people “go down to certain areas and watch and study, and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.” But Democrats argue those poll-watchers could be intimidating voters – instead of preventing intimidation. That’s not so far-fetched, said Adam Gitlin, counsel for the Democracy Program of New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s actually a risk that, in a more disorganized way, people are going to be showing up to the polls, they won’t know the law, and they’ll be engaging in discriminatory challenges,” Gitlin told the news site ProPublica for a Sept. 14 story.
The author of the bill in the Pennsylvania House, Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, said it solves a problem with recruiting election monitors. The law now requires that monitors live in the counties where they are assigned.
But many rural lawmakers represent districts that span multiple counties. Under existing law, they must find residents in each county to monitor polls on their behalf, instead of assigning supporters wherever they are needed.
Saccone’s bill only requires that poll-watchers be Pennsylvania residents.