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FILE: Rep. David Zimmerman of the 99th district speaks after receiving the endorsement of the Lancaster County Republican committee. The Lancaster County Republican Endorsement Convention was held Tuesday evening January 28, 2020 at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center on Arcadia Road in Lancaster.

State Rep. Dave Zimmerman, a conservative representing northeastern Lancaster County’s 99th House District, was one of three Republican legislators to vote against his party’s bill to tighten restrictions on voting in the state.

The bill is the result of months of hearings by the GOP majority into the 2020 election and is aimed, in part, at reversing a 2019 law that extended registration deadlines and expanded access to mail-in ballots. It passed the Pennsylvania House on Tuesday by a vote of 110 to 91.

Democrats opposed the bill on the grounds that Republicans are seeking to punish voters for the 2020 presidential election results, in which President Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes at the same time that GOP candidates performed well down ballot and won  two row office positions -- auditor general and treasurer.

Zimmerman opposed the bill for very different reasons. He said the bill, authored by York County Rep. Seth Grove, does not do enough to promote election security. He said his view is consistent with his 2019 vote against Act 77, the GOP-championed election law that created no-excuse mail voting and eliminated straight-ticket voting, among other sweeping changes.

Zimmerman and Lititz-area Rep. Steve Mentzer were the only two House Republicans to oppose Act 77 in 2019. Mentzer, though, voted for Grove’s bill this week.

“Just because I didn’t support Act 77 doesn't mean I don’t think it needs to be improved,” Mentzer said. “You don’t always get what you want.”

Grove’s House Bill 1300 would require voters to provide ID every time they cast a vote. It would require counties to staff mail ballot drop boxes, suspend “early voting” opportunities (voters are currently allowed to request a mail-in ballot in-person and immediately submit it) until 2025, and increase in-person voting accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities. It would also let counties begin processing mail-in ballots five days before Election Day; currently, they can’t start the pre-canvassing process until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Gov. Tom Wolf has already promised to veto Grove’s bill, accusing Republicans of trying to disenfranchise voters by making it harder for them to register and cast ballots.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, said Grove’s bill does not do enough to roll back the state’s previous voter expansions, and instead adds processes he believes, without evidence, threaten the safety of the state’s election.

“Pre-canvassing is wrong, curing ballots is wrong, early voting is wrong,” Zimmerman said. (Ballot curing is a process by which a voter can be notified of a problem with their ballot and given the opportunity to fix it.)

Two other Republicans also opposed the GOP bill: Reps. Michael Puskaric, R-Allegheny, and Mike Jones, R-York. Neither representative issued a statement on why he opposed it.

Zimmerman said he supported the voter ID provisions in House Bill 1300, but he said he’d like to see an even more rigorous ID process, like requiring voters to show proof of citizenship when registering. Opponents say people who register to vote are asked to attest to being a citizen under penalty of perjury. States also can access driver’s license databases to confirm a voter’s citizenship status, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Zimmerman said he continues to doubt the results of the 2020 election, in which he was overwhelmingly elected to a fourth term.

“Not only me, there’s thousands of people around Pennsylvania that question it,” Zimmerman said.

No widespread voter fraud was found to have affected the election in Pennsylvania or the other closely fought states. A few examples of individual voter fraud in Pennsylvania involved mostly Republican voters who attempted to cast ballots sent to deceased relatives. 

When this was pointed out by a reporter, Zimmerman said, “The only reason we had no examples of [fraud] is the courts never looked at it, so we don’t know.”

Zimmerman and other Republican doubters of the 2020 election have never produced evidence of fraud. Some of the most explosive claims made by former President Trump’s legal team and Republican candidates never passed muster in federal courts, and Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani told a federal judge in November that the Trump campaign was not alleging fraud in Pennsylvania’s election. Republicans, instead, argue that the Department of State issued conflicting guidance to counties ahead of Election Day, which counties interpreted in different ways. These inconsistencies could have led to inaccuracies, which they allege without evidence.

Zimmerman also joined many other Republican legislators on legal briefs seeking to void Pennsylvania’s election results and allow the Legislature to appoint presidential electors for Trump. Those baseless filings were later cited by Republican members of the U.S. House who voted to reject Pennsylvania’s electors early on Jan. 7, hours after a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol.

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