Shapiro’s ‘Voter Registration’ Change Just Another Photo Op – The American Spectator
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced, with great fanfare, that he is implementing “automatic voter registration” in the Keystone State.
As has been typical with Shapiro’s administration, the move is more bluster than bite.
Shapiro’s friends at the Washington Post were the first to gush over the new policy. Then, Shapiro embarked on a wide-ranging media blitz, complete with self-congratulatory social media posts that welcomed praise for “defending democracy.” Only later was the Pennsylvania Department of State’s election “stakeholders’ group,” on which I serve, notified via a forward of the press release. (READ MORE: Democracy and Its Lunkheads)
The policy itself amounts to little more than changing a form at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and revamping a process that already exists — namely, the ability to register to vote when also obtaining or renewing a driver’s license.
While Shapiro’s move doesn’t create any new problems with election integrity, it fails to address — and completely ignores — problems inherent in Pennsylvania’s voter registration lists, which are already plagued with data errors.
Unfortunately, because of Shapiro’s inability to work with the legislature, he acted unilaterally, opening himself up to a legal challenge to whether he had executive authority to make this move. More importantly, Shapiro has failed to tackle needed legislative fixes to our election processes.
How Pennsylvania Should Fix Voting Problems
First, Pennsylvania must strengthen voter identification requirements, as 35 states have already done. The legislature has passed voter identification — along with provisions to provide free identification to any voter who doesn’t have it — on multiple occasions with bipartisan support. Notably, 70 percent of voters favor this reform.
Further, Pennsylvania must do more to clean up voter rolls and strengthen the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system intended to bolster election integrity. (READ MORE: The Ruling Class Games of Josh Shapiro)
The state must also change the deadlines for registering to vote and requesting mail-in ballots. This change, too, has bipartisan support and is a top priority of county election administrators. The current deadlines, which allow voters to register 15 days before an election and to request a mail-in ballot seven days before an election, are unrealistic, resulting in confusion and ballot shortages at polling places.
So why is Shapiro implementing this unilateral change now? Simply put, he’s deliberately distracting from his lack of legislative accomplishments, including his incomplete budget and inability to deliver on his campaign promises.
Shapiro Is Flunking His Legislative Job
Shapiro’s first six months have been the least productive of any Pennsylvania governor since 1975. Through the end of July, Shapiro signed only 15 bills, compared to an average of 86 among the prior 12 gubernatorial terms.
Shapiro defends his lackluster record by claiming that Pennsylvania is the only state with a “full-time, divided legislature.” Yet, nine other states have divided governments, and they enacted between 75 and 812 laws in the first half of 2023, led by Virginia, with a divided, part-time legislature.
Nearly three months into the new fiscal year, Pennsylvania’s 2023–24 state budget remains incomplete, as about $1.1 billion of spending in the General Appropriations Act requires enabling legislation. Without this legislation, funding for a number of programs will be sequestered. Likewise, funding for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities remains in legislative limbo.
To make Pennsylvania “open for business,” Shapiro campaigned on cutting Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax — among the highest in the nation — to 4 percent by 2025. He also proposed eliminating cell phone taxes in his budget. He has yet to deliver on any tax cuts. (READ MORE: Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro’s Fetterman Problem)
Most notably, Shapiro has yet to deliver his campaign pledge to advance educational choice. He notably backtracked on his promise and line-item vetoed $100 million for Lifeline Scholarships. While Shapiro maintains he supports the proposal, he has yet to do the work necessary to get his own party on board and deliver educational options to Pennsylvania kids.
Shapiro has a habit of overselling every minor action he takes. But where it really counts, he fails to deliver.
Until Shapiro stops focusing on photo ops and self-promotion and starts to do the actual work necessary to lead, he’ll rely on gimmicks to distract from his record of few accomplishments.
Nathan Benefield is the Senior Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.