What do Pennsylvania Republicans have against voters?

OPINION: While Democrats work to make elections safe and secure and voting easier, the GOP tries to suppress the vote every chance they get.

Voters enter the Bryn Athyn Borough Hall polling station to cast their ballots on November 08, 2022 in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

It’s an election year, and Pennsylvania’s primary is rapidly approaching. 

It’s a time when the election process is also at the forefront. As an elected official representing my neighbors and as Pennsylvania House speaker, I’m always thinking about ways we can strengthen the process to ensure that all eligible voters’ rights are preserved and to examine how we can make it easier for Pennsylvanians to vote. 

I wish I could say the same about some of my colleagues. 

Election or not, for Republicans, the crusade to disenfranchise voters is always in season.

In fact, the Pennsylvania GOP has a damning record of spearheading efforts to disenfranchise voters. 

They’ve been unrelenting since December 2020 when more than 60 Republican state lawmakers signed a letter urging Congress to object to counting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Note that none of the letter’s dozens of signatories contested the validity of the vote tallies in their own elections. 

In 2022, Pennsylvania’s House and Senate Republican majorities rammed through a constitutional amendment bill to expand the state’s existing voter identification law (meant to disenfranchise urban and low-income voters) late at night before the legislature broke for summer recess. (Incidentally, this voter ID measure was tied to an amendment to criminalize abortion in Pennsylvania, too.)

Then in 2023, Senate Republicans refused to pass legislation to provide justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse unless it was tied to a measure expanding Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, defaulting on a four-caucus agreement to prioritize the child abuse survivor bill early in the 2023 legislative session.


So, I was disappointed but not surprised, by the Republican response when I recently introduced a bill to make voting easier and more convenient by allowing for early voting and same-day registration in Pennsylvania — which dozens of other states already allow. 

“I think it is a horrible idea,” House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler, who endorsed the 2020 disenfranchisement plan,  told a Harrisburg ABC affiliate

To further demonstrate the partisan ideological divide in Pennsylvania, during a press conference announcing my legislation, where I stood alongside a coalition of more than a dozen nonpartisan voter advocacy groups, a Senate panel — led by 2020 disenfranchisement ringleader state Sen. Cris Dush — was simultaneously voting to eliminate ballot drop boxes. 

And it isn’t just Pennsylvania’s elected Republicans who seek to make voting harder. The director of the GOP-aligned Win Again PAC agreed that Republicans’ embrace of early voting in Nevada and Georgia has helped the party, but told online news outlet, NOTUS, that he still opposes early voting in Pennsylvania because the GOP doesn’t want to get “caught with their pants down again.”

Now, Republicans across the country, including Pennsylvania, face an intra-party battle on how to approach mail-in voting. 

In the commonwealth, Republican groups have launched a multimillion-dollar, albeit late, effort to get their voters to embrace mail-in voting. But this flipflop to support mail-in voting is a complicated message since the candidate at the top of the GOP ticket claims that it is rife with fraud and because earlier Pennsylvania’s own Republican lawmakers sued to overturn the 2019 law that made mail-in voting legal. A bill they overwhelmingly supported when it passed. (The state Supreme Court upheld mail-in voting in 2022.)

All of these actions lead me and others to wonder why Republicans are so opposed to Pennsylvanians voting.  

These same GOP officials often invoke the legacy of our nation’s “founding fathers,” lauding them for their foresight, their persistence, and their courage; why not honor them for their vision to adopt a representative democracy where the people have a voice in the management of their government? 

Despite the flaws of our nation’s founders, I believe in the principles at the core of our national identity, most importantly, the right to vote. I take great pride in being from Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy. And I think Pennsylvania voters deserve the same access to the polls as voters in other states. After all, even states with historic records of voter suppression and restrictive voting laws, like Georgia and Florida, allow early voting. 

In Pennsylvania, the distinction couldn’t be more clear. There are those of us who know communities thrive when everyone’s voice is represented and are working tirelessly to make it easier for every eligible Pennsylvanian to vote.

And then there are others who portray themselves as the guardians of freedom but do everything they can to limit the people’s voice in the governance of their communities. 

The question for Pennsylvania voters – and voters in all states – is which individuals on their ballot are going to truly fight for their fundamental rights, and which want to restrict those rights? 

This is an incredibly important election year – one that could determine whether our rights will be upheld or whether they will be restricted. If they care about their right to vote, Pennsylvanians can’t afford to sit this election out. 

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton represents portions of Philadelphia and Delaware County. She is the first woman and second African American to serve as the speaker of the nation’s oldest, continuously operating state legislative body.