Editorial | Pennsylvania’s ‘election integrity’ panel lacks integrity

At the end of Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump continued to plant seeds of doubt about the integrity of mail-in ballots. The president’s unfounded gaslighting about election integrity and voter fraud is nothing new. But now Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to resolve an non-existent problem. And it’s doing more harm than good. 

Republicans in the Pa. House of Representatives said Wednesday that they were looking to create a committee on “election integrity,” which would consist of three Republican and two Democratic House lawmakers. The group would “investigate and review” the upcoming presidential election, and would also be granted the power to initiate legal filings and subpoena witnesses and documents. 

Rightfully, Democrats called this a “stealth attack” on voting. Voter suppression has long been a concern in America, with the burden falling most heavily on people of color. But the “election integrity” panel doesn’t address this — it’s based off of falsehoods that Trump is spewing. If the House really wants to make the election more secure and accessible, it should focus on tangible problems like voter suppression and correct mail-in ballot formatting. 

Studies have repeatedly shown that all forms of voter fraud are extremely rare. Some states run their elections almost entirely by mail, and those states too have reported few incidents of voter fraud. The bigger issue is voter suppression. Academic studies and court rulings have found a substantial amount of racially biased voting laws — specifically strict Voter ID laws that disproportionately affect communities of color. The U.S. Supreme Court also weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013, which allowed states and counties with a history of voter discrimination to run elections without strict federal oversight. 

The “election integrity” committee won’t address any of these concerns, or other voting concerns — like naked ballots — that have gained attention in Pennsylvania over the past few weeks. The Pa. Supreme Court just issued a sweeping decision about election procedures for the general election, including a rule to not count naked ballots, which puts thousands of votes at risk of not being counted on a technicality. Pennsylvania sends out a secrecy envelope with mail-in ballots, and if voters don’t return their ballots inside said envelope, their votes won’t be counted.

The House would be better off trying to fix this, or at least advertise and educate the public on mailing ballots correctly. It seems instead that this burden has fallen to politicians and non-profit organizations. 

If anything, the House creating this committee further harms the integrity of the election by drawing attention to Trump’s false ideas, and likely sowing a false sense of doubt in the election process. 

Experts feel Pennsylvania is one of the most important swing states in the 2020 election. It’s unethical to waste time and resources on a committee that’s only going to cause harm. It’s true that we need election integrity, but that election integrity must be real.