(The Center Square) – The state House has overwhelmingly rejected a joint proposal to move the primary election date and implement sweeping voting changes that frustrated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The chamber struck down Senate Bill 224 by a vote of 177-26. In total, all 101 Republicans and 76 Democrats, including House Speaker Joanna McClinton of Philadelphia, disapproved.
At the heart of the controversy lied a last-minute amendment, added late Wednesday night, that included popular – and divisive – election process updates such as three-day precanvassing, universal voter ID, ballot curing, and permanent mail-in voting lists.
Critics described the move as “midnight malarky” and said sweeping changes just one month before a general election put county election offices in an impossible position. Moving the presidential primary date to March 19 would further complicate matters, considering local officials have already cemented logistical plans for the traditional late-April date.
A separate proposal that changed the primary election date to the first Tuesday in April, House Bill 1634, narrowly passed along party lines. Republicans reiterated their criticism regarding the tight timeline for implementation.
Supporters of the legislation say, however, that – as a pivotal swing state – Pennsylvania deserves a more meaningful role in determining presidential nominees. Their current schedule – the fourth Tuesday in April – not only conflicts with Passover, but typically means the winners have already been declared.
Rescheduling to the third Tuesday in March aligns with primary elections in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio and would be two weeks after Super Tuesday. Fourteen states are on March 5, according to Ballotpedia, four states are before that with New Hampshire expected to be a fifth, and four states are on March 12.
The latter bill heads to the Senate for consideration. Of note, the defeated proposal cleared the upper chamber earlier this year, though it only included the new primary date at that time.