Elections (Archived)

Poll shows support for early voting and more funding for Pa. elections

Gov. Tom Wolf signs Act 77 of 2019 into law, which established mail-in voting in Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf signs Act 77 of 2019 into law, which established mail-in voting in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Media Services

A new poll prepared by two progressive organizations found that a majority of Pennsylvanians support early voting, the use of dropboxes and increased funding for county election administration. 

The poll also found stark partisan divides on how the 2020 presidential election was conducted, with Democrats and independents more likely to express confidence in how the elections were handled than Republicans. 

The survey, commissioned by State Innovation Exchange and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, comes as Harrisburg Republicans are looking to revamp the state’s election laws after a series of hearings on election administration and procedures. 

The poll surveyed 1,348 Pennsylvania voters – a majority of whom indicated opposition toward efforts to restrict access to the ballot. According to the survey, 58% of voters oppose efforts to ban early voting; 60% oppose efforts to ban dropboxes; 61% oppose the elimination of mail-in voting; and 69% oppose efforts to ban in-person voting at satellite election offices. 

More than 75% support increased funding for county election offices, including 81% of Democrats, 72% of independents and 74% of Republicans. 

The survey also found that a majority of Pennsylvanians also believe that the 2020 election was administered well, with 59% saying elections were conducted “very well” or “somewhat well.” However, those opinions significantly differ based on party affiliation, as 91% of Democrats and 55% of independents had confidence in how last year’s elections were administered, compared to just 24% of Republicans. 

“I think the point is that by huge majorities, Pennsylvanians think elections were conducted fairly, and oppose most of the Republican efforts to make it harder for people to vote,” said Marc Stier, the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. 

The poll results come as Republicans in the General Assembly are preparing to move an omnibus election bill in the coming weeks. House Bill 1300, authored by House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove, would drastically update the state’s Election Code by establishing voter ID requirements, allowing early in-person voting beginning in 2025 and requiring signature verification. 

The legislation would also introduce curbside voting for disabled Pennsylvanians, provide funding to county election offices and move voter registration and ballot application deadlines further away from Election Day. 

Grove says his 147-page bill, named the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act, would make elections more accessible while also bolstering election security.

“The Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act is a comprehensive election law update that protects voting rights through accessibility, modernization, and security,” Grove wrote in a recent letter to Gov. Tom Wolf. “In addition, the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act expands voting access through early in-person voting; making it easier for disabled and elderly Pennsylvanians to cast a ballot; and providing significant technology upgrades that will reduce voting lines, improve Election Day operations and provide an accurate record of elections from registration to tabulation.”

But Democrats don’t quite see it that way. In a statement released Tuesday, Wolf reiterated his concerns with the bill. “This legislation creates barriers for people to register to vote, vote by mail and vote in person,” he said. “Under this bill, voters would have less time to register to vote and apply for a mail-in ballot, and would be subjected to arbitrary signature verification on mail-in ballots or voter ID at polling places and limits on the use of drop boxes.”

Grove, in his letter, publicly encouraged Wolf to meet with him about potential reforms to the Election Code and expressed a willingness to negotiate. “For you to not engage in the finalization of this legislation puts Pennsylvania voters at a significant disadvantage as we seek to make our election laws a national model,” Grove wrote.

Stier, however, said Grove’s bill is misleading. While the bill would allow for voting options supported in the poll, Stier said the bill would still levy new restrictions on dropboxes and scale back the current timelines for registering to vote and requesting mail-in ballots. 

“The strong support for early voting, the strong support for mail-in voting, the strong support for ballot boxes, the strong support for satellite offices, the strong support for additional funding for county election boards – that’s pretty much all of the things that are threatened by House Bill 1300.”

TargetSmart, a political data company based in Washington, D.C., conducted the poll from June 2 through 7 throughout Pennsylvania. TargetSmart has a credibility interval of +/- 3.1%.