Wolf, Legislature Set to Delay Pennsylvania’s Primary to Early June

Centre County introduced new ES&S voting machines in the primary on May 21, 2019.
Min Xian / WPSU

“[It] gives us time to monitor the situation and the trendlines and, if needed, discuss further how postponed primary ought to be conducted.”

Emily Previti

(Harrisburg) — Gov. Tom Wolf will sign a bill delaying the upcoming primary until June 2 if it clears the General Assembly in its current form, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

The bill in question would postpone Pennsylvania’s presidential primary for 2020 only. House lawmakers approved it on Tuesday afternoon, and Wolf spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger confirmed several hours later that the governor would sign the measure if it gets through third consideration in the House and a concurrence vote in the Senate.

Both chambers are expected to pass the legislation.

In addition to postponing the April 28 primary to June, SB422 would let counties move polling locations and consolidate precincts without court approval. Counties would also get the authority to reassign poll workers to different precincts.

Those provisions are meant to address election officials’ mounting concerns that they won’t have enough people to staff the polls, as some poll workers preemptively call out citing coronavirus concerns.

County elections officials have been voicing concerns for weeks that the coronavirus outbreak would make it impossible to hold the state’s primary at the end of April. Some officials supported postponing the primary until June 23, and some called for requiring the election to be conducted by mail only.

“The postponement is the most important thing,” said Forrest Lehman, elections director in Lycoming County. “[It] gives us time to monitor the situation and the trendlines and, if needed, discuss further how postponed primary ought to be conducted.”

Election experts and fair voting advocates criticized the bill because it doesn’t provide for notifying voters directly if their polling place is changed.

The bill would require counties to post the new locations at their election offices and on their websites 15 days before the primary.

Pennsylvania is not the only state looking to shift primaries to later in the spring when the coronavirus will presumably be less of a concern. Rhode Island officials decided Monday to move their state’s primary to June 2; other states are also delaying their primaries to that date.

PA Post is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom covering politics and policy in Pennsylvania. For more, go to PaPost.org.
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