Time to reform Pennsylvania’s archaic voting laws

Eliminate finger-pointing and the excessive legislative party control when streamlining our state’s voting laws. It’s time to enable our citizens to cast votes without a bureaucracy that continues to stifle their voices.

Reform is overdue, and deliberate action is needed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the voting process. But several reform proposals from state House and Senate lawmakers are just being ignored.

As state Senator Vince Hughes of Philadelphia eloquently stated at a recent news conference, “Our democracy depends on its voters, which we are fighting to ensure every eligible person has a chance to voice their opinion at the ballot box.”

As your state legislator, I am supporting multiple measures to streamline the voting process and make it less antiquated.

Our state needs automatic voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, same-day voter registration and campaign finance reform.

People should be able to register to vote when they sign up for critical state services, such as renewing driver’s licenses or applying for a state public benefit.

We need to expand early voting, expand rules for absentee voting and eliminate straight-party voting. We should require the state to accept absentee ballots postmarked before the election even if they arrive in the mail after the election, allow workers to leave work to vote and open the primaries to more voters.

Some of the bills being considered would need General Assembly approval in two consecutive sessions before going to voters on a ballot in a state referendum. Others can be done right away.

Nevertheless, our pleas to change all antiquated voting laws continue to be ignored by those who instead choose to stymie voters for political reasons.

Pennsylvania has 8.6 million registered voters, and about half that amount turned out for the 2018 midterm elections. This is unacceptable. According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, fewer than 22 percent of Pennsylvanians registered to vote turned out to vote in the last primary election.

The less complicated the process, the easier it is to vote. Voting is our right, and we should respect the process as such.

Overwhelmingly, the proposed bills to reform the system are popular among Pennsylvania voters. The legislation has support among many grassroots organizations. So why stall?

In many counties, because of the stringent timelines, many absentee ballots are thrown out without being counted.

Reforms can lead to increased voter turnout throughout Pennsylvania.

Advocates for these reform measure include the grassroots organizations Keystone Votes, Common Cause, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Pennsylvanians for Fair Elections, Committee of 79, League of Women Voters, Keystone Progress, SiX and Brennan Center for Justice.

I hope you find this topic as important as I do. As always, please contact my office 570-342-4348 if you have any questions or comments on these bills, or on any state-related matter.  Hearing what issues and causes are most important to you helps me develop and fine tune my policy standpoints.