Pennsylvania State Representation Malcolm Kenyatta delivered a fiery speech this week against Republican-backed legislation that he says will make it harder for people to have their votes counted.
The bill, which passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in a party-line vote Wednesday and now goes to the Senate, eliminates drop boxes for ballots in the state and allows only brief periods for requesting mail-in ballots and beginning vote counts before Election Day, Spotlight PA reports.
As amended by Republicans, the bill reduces the deadline for requesting mail-in ballots from 15 days in an earlier version to seven, and counting of those ballots will begin three days before Election Day, not 21 as Democratic Governor Tom Wolf wanted. It will also allow poll watchers to go to counties other than their own to monitor voting.
“This actually should not be a contentious issue,” Kenyatta, a Philadelphia Democrat, said on the House floor Tuesday. “It should be a bipartisan issue to allow every Pennsylvanian to have access to their fundamental right to vote. But what this amendment does is make the process inaccessible for Pennsylvanians. And unfortunately, it has been driven by national politics.”
Allowing poll watchers to come in from other counties will have the effect of intimidating voters in cities like Philadelphia, he said. “That’s why the Voting Rights Act struck down a lot of these things,” he pointed out. He decried unsupported accusations of fraud in the mail-in voting process, which have come largely from Donald Trump.
Statistics cited by the chair of the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee show an incidence of fraud that is less than one-tenth of 1 percent, Kenyatta noted. “I wasn’t that good in math class, but that means not even 1 percent of votes,” he said, adding, “Most of those cases involved voter intimidation, which this bill would allow to run rampant.”
He had previously spoken about the issue during a previous session.
"In my first term here, I've come to expect the absurd," he said of the issue. "This idea of voter fraud is, frankly, nonsense — and we need to call it that. Nonsense."
Watch the full speeches below.