Pennsylvania State Rep. Tim Brennan Wants to Ban Guns from Polling Places to Keep Voters and Election Workers Safe

The Bucks County lawmaker's bill follows in the the footsteps of many other states, including Texas and Mississippi, that have already enacted similar laws.

Recruiting people to work the polls for Pennsylvania elections has become a challenge, and one of the main reasons workers have become difficult to recruit is not lost on State Representative Tim Brennan (D-29).

Fear of working at the polls has grown due to rising right-wing political violence largely fueled by election conspiracy theories and dis- and misinformation. Here in Pennsylvania this is exacerbated by the state’s lenient gun laws.

Brennan recalled death threats made to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Al Schmidt in 2020 in a recent PCNTV interview with Phil Beckman. “There’s threats to election officials. In my personal experience, I had represented election boards, and I saw an entire wall of threats that came into these election officials and frankly a lot of them are worried.”

House Bill 2077, recently introduced by Brennan, would prohibit the possession of a firearm at any polling location.

“Currently, pretty much you can bring a gun into any polling place as long as it’s not a prohibitive location, like a school or a court,” Brennan said. “So those are some of the places where it’s currently abandoned.”

Schools and courts are far from the only locations where electors may cast a ballot. Township buildings, churches, libraries, fire stations, along with other public venues, are also used as polling locations.

READ: State and local election workers quitting amid abuse, officials tell U.S. Senate panel

“A lot of other states have already addressed this. When I looked into it, I found that most gun owners, 62%, actually support a ban for guns at a polling place,” he said, adding that he is actually a gun owner.

Firearm prohibitions at polling locations have already been enacted by Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas.

The legislation would not impact police officers or members of the armed forces when on duty.

While the first major decline in poll workers was spurred by the Covid pandemic, the reduction in workers has never recuperated despite an increase in pay and the ability – in some counties – to recruit students who are 17 or older. Bucks County does participate in Youth at the Booth.

READ: We’re in an Epidemic of Right-Wing Terror. Won’t Someone Tell the Press?

“It’s getting harder and harder to get people to come in and want to work with polls. It’s a job that really doesn’t pay much. People do it because they care, and it’s difficult when they’re being threatened,” Brennan said.

After introduction, HB-2077 was referred to the House State Government Committee where it will be reviewed, approved and likely go to the House floor to be voted on by all state representatives. Like any other proposed law, the legislation will travel to the Senate, currently with a Republican majority, and if approved will be signed into law by Governor Shapiro. 

Registered voters interested in working the polls in Bucks County may contact the Bucks County Board of Elections.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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