Monday, July 08, 2019
Wolf's Politically Inspired Veto Punishes Counties
Last year, in an effort to settle a lawsuit about election security, Wolf ordered all 67 counties to use voting systems with voter-verifiable paper trails in time for next year's Presidential election. This was an unfunded mandate that cost both Lehigh and Northampton County around $5 million. But we had no reason to fear. Wolf promised to visit the money tree in Harrisburg at budget time.
After some initial reluctance by the GOP, the state legislature finally groaned and agreed to give counties up to $90 million to help reimburse this cost. At last week's NorCo Council meeting, member John Cusick thanked State Senators Lisa Boscola and Mario Scavello for their support. He urged Governor Wolf to sign it.
Guess what? On Friday, Governor Wolf vetoed it. .
Governor Wolf's veto is the result of a provision that also eliminates straight-party voting. This allows a voter to select one political party's complete slate of candidates with a single mark. In his veto message, Wolf reasoned "the isolated removal of a convenient voting option (the straight-party button) would increase waiting times and could discourage participation."
Elimination of the straight-party option made it unacceptable to partisan hacks who happen to be Democrats. In the House, only four Democrats voted for the bill. In the Senate, Boscola was one of only three Democrats to vote Yes.
Locally, all Democratic State Representatives voted against the measure. The last thing Mike Schlossberg, Pete Schweyer, Steve Samuelson or Bob Freeman wants is an informed voter. They want lever pullers. This leads to one-party rule, and the result is political corruption.
Like Fed Ed.
Or Reading's Mayor.
Or Scranton's Mayor.
Ironically, in states where Democrats are a minority, elimination of straight-party voting is favored. In Oklahoma, for example, State Democratic Chair Anna Langthorn decries the practice in her state, saying it enables "uneducated voting."
Here in Pennsylvania, African American lawmakers blasted the elimination of the straight-ticket as a racist attempt to suppress voting by those with limited literacy or access to information.
In defending this arcane and outdated practice, these so-called representatives have slurred the intelligence of the voiceless they pretend to champion
Pennsylvania is one of only eight states that still allow straight-party voting.
What kills me is that this is a pretty good compromise bill. Counties get some badly needed money to comply with Wolf's imperial decree. In addition, the vetoed bill would expanded absentee-voting deadlines. In other words, it would make voting more inclusive. Under current law, absentee ballots must be received by the elections office no later than the Friday before an election. Ballots received after that date, no matter when postmarked, are rejected.
Under the vetoed changes, elections officials would be required to accept absentee ballots received as long as a week after the election, so long as they were post-marked the Friday before the election.
Since this was a close vote, I doubt there's any ability to override Wolf's political veto. Besides, there are partisan hacks in the GOP, too, and they love the idea of blaming Wolf and Democrats for screwing counties.
NorCo Council member John Cusick said he is disappointed at Wolf's veto of compromise legislation, saying it has created a "massive unfunded mandate on local property taxpayers across the Commonwealth." Executive Lamont McClure echoed the disappointment, but he adds, "[W]e remain convinced Governor Wolf will make good on his promise to the counties."
And my rent check's in the mail.
NorCo Council Prez Ron Heckman and Peg Ferraro want the state legislature and Governor Wolf to do the right thing and resolve their differences.
Why start now?
My own view is that counties will never see a dime from the state.