HARRISBURG – The state Senate today approved the Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to ensure election laws are strictly adhered to and improve confidence in Pennsylvania’s elections, according to Sen. Robinson (R-37).
Senate Bill 573 makes the following changes to the Election Code:
- Allows candidates from all political parties to increase the number of eligible poll watchers at a precinct from two watchers to three watchers.
- Permits poll watchers to be inside the enclosed space where ballots are being counted or voting machines canvassed after polls close. They may observe but not interfere with the counting of ballots.
- Permits poll watchers registered to vote in Pennsylvania to work at a polling place anywhere in the Commonwealth, regardless of which county they are registered to vote in. Allowing “out of county” poll watchers ensures that minority parties will have equal poll watcher representation at all polling places throughout the commonwealth.
- Subjects any election official who blocks, impedes or otherwise intimidates a valid poll watcher to a second-degree misdemeanor penalty and increased fines and requires forfeiture of any pay received for election services. There were numerous instances in the 2020 election where poll watchers were denied access despite having valid certificates.
- Guarantees that any poll watcher allowed to watch the pre-canvassing of mail and absentee ballots shall be permitted to have a clear line of sight to observe the process within six feet or less. This mirrors language of a Commonwealth court ruling in November 2020.
The bill does not change what a poll watcher can do while voting is taking place. It would double penalties for anyone who intimidates voters or interferes with the election process.
“I have heard many times from the constituents in my district on how discouraged they feel regarding the integrity of our elections,” Robinson said. “Improving transparency in the election process is something we should all welcome and this bill will go a long way to restore their trust.”
Senate Bill 573 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Elizabeth Weitzel