Philadelphia legislators oppose bill that eliminates straight ticket voting

HARRISBURG, Oct. 29 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, chairman of the Philadelphia House Delegation, released the following statement on behalf of a majority of delegation members who are against S.B. 421, which would eliminate the straight ticket voting option in Pennsylvania.

“The majority of the Philadelphia House Delegation is deeply concerned with the elimination of straight ticket voting. The governor’s office has touted Senate Bill 421 as the most comprehensive change to the way people vote in Pennsylvania since suffrage. While members of the Philadelphia Delegation have supported and do support many of the individual pieces contained within Senate Bill 421, the short timeline as well as lack of funding and big picture planning make it impossible for Philadelphia to implement these changes in time for the 2020 primary and general elections. Many of our constituents already face large challenges participating in the voting process, whether they have physical disabilities or access issues, and without funding to educate voters about the dramatic change, we cannot in good conscience support this legislation.

“Governor Wolf released a statement in which he agreed with our concerns on July 5: ‘This policy choice removes a convenient voting option which is used by voters of any party affiliation. To implement such a change, particularly as new machines are being used for the first time, could lead to voter confusion and longer lines at the polls. These factors may lead to decreased voter participation, which again, is in conflict with an inclusive approach to our system of elections.’

“There are a number of problems with Senate Bill 421. First, it takes away an option from voters. Removing the choice to vote a straight party ticket, or not, would adversely impact working class voters who are members of low-income communities, often communities of color. Second, the Philadelphia City Commissioners do not have the capacity or financial resources to get this done in time to ensure our elections will be secure, fair and correctly counted.  

“Therefore, as a Philadelphia House Delegation, we express our strong opposition to Senate Bill 421 and urge the governor to veto this legislation. Communities of color in some of the poorest areas of this commonwealth will be negatively impacted by this legislation and a veto is the only way to prevent their voices from being minimized. 

“As we said earlier, there are many individual provisions within this legislation that we support, but we do not believe any benefit gained by the passage of Senate Bill 421 would outweigh the catastrophic consequences if it were signed into law. On behalf of the people of Philadelphia, we once again state our strong opposition to this reckless legislation.”