Gov. Tom Wolf was right to reject a bill on poll watchers passed Friday by the Republican majority Legislature.
Wolf vetoed a bill — sponsored by State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor — to let all registered voters of Pennsylvania serve as poll watchers in any precinct in the state.
“This bill does nothing to increase access to voting,” Wolf wrote. “Instead, this bill undermines the integrity of our election process and encourages voter intimidation.”
Wolf is right.
Mastriano’s bill is part of Republican efforts nationwide to suppress the vote before the midterms in November and beyond.
These efforts are driven by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
As the Jan. 6 congressional committee hearings have revealed, the violent mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was fueled by false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
While the plot to overturn the 2020 election failed, false claims about voter fraud have fueled legislation that will make it harder to vote.
Since Trump’s defeat, several Republican-controlled states have enacted restrictive voting laws including limiting or eliminating same-day voter registration, reduced early voting, stricter absentee ballot requirements, curtailing access to mail voting and limits on drop boxes.
During the 2020 election, Trump repeatedly promoted his campaign’s army of poll watchers as he urged his supporters to go to heavily Black and Latino cities and hunt for voter fraud.
State legislators have also introduced at least 40 bills in 20 states that would expand the powers of poll watchers, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Republicans have grounded their arguments on seeking more secure elections.
But Republicans have offered little evidence to justify a need for poll watchers to have expanded access and autonomy and the passage of election changes making it more difficult to vote.
There is a long history of poll watchers being used to intimidate voters and harass election workers, particularly targeting Democratic-leaning Black and Latino communities to stoke fears that have the overall effect of voter suppression.
In response to these nationwide voter suppression efforts, voters must elect more Democrats to Congress to ensure passage of new federal voting rights protections.