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State House Committee Wrestles With Election Changes Amidst Concerns Over Voter Suppression

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Pennsylvania's state House Government Committee held another hearing in Harrisburg Thursday afternoon on election integrity in the Commonwealth.

It was the first hearing since the state of Georgia passed legislation that's being challenged in court as voter suppression.

When Joe Biden and two Democrats, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, won elections in Georgia, Republicans -- who control that state --quickly changed their election laws.

It raises a fundamental question. When do laws to protect the integrity of voting become, in fact, voter suppression by limiting when and how voters vote?

"Voter access and security don't need to be mutually exclusive. We can have an election system that is grounded in integrity and provide accessibility to voters," noted Pennsylvania Rep. Seth Grove, the Republican chair of the committee. "Pennsylvania's election system should be easy to vote but hard to cheat."

A House committee is hearing how to do just that, knowing that in this state with a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor, any changes will require a bipartisan agreement.

But don't count on any changes soon.

"We are not yet prepared to do anything about the upcoming May primary when there was plenty of time for us to do so," said state Rep. Margo Davidson, the Democratic minority chair of the committee.

While some would end no-fault mail-in voting, ban drop boxes, curtail voter registration, or require a photo ID to vote, others call this voter suppression unlikely to win Governor Wolf's support.

But there are some security measures needed to prevent voter disinformation and hacking.

"Unfortunately, only 11 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have election websites that are on dot-gov domains. The vast majority are on dot-com or dot-org domains that anyone can purchase," testified Dr. Will Adler from the Center for Democracy and Integrity.

"Russian and Chinese hacking groups – these kinds of attacks could have easily spread to election infrastructure, and you can be certain that enemies seeking to compromise that infrastructure will keep trying," noted Dr. Clifford Neuman from the University of Southern California's Center for Computer Systems Security.

Christopher Deluzio at Pitt's Cyber Institute worries that voter suppression efforts distract from legitimate security needs like risk-limiting audits, software independence and scrutinizing machine vendors.

"Sound and smart moves that we ought to do to bolster public faith in our elections and are not at all designed to keep people from the polls," Deluzio told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday.

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