Rabb urges special elections process overhaul as critical races loom

HARRISBURG, Jan. 31 – A week before consequential special election races in Allegheny County that may sway the balance of power in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., urged support for his soon-to-be reintroduced legislation to modernize the special election process — an all too opaque, exclusionary and expensive endeavor in which too few voters participate.

“It’s time to rethink the system that got us here. We must invest in a process that is more transparent, accountable, inclusive, efficient and less costly to taxpayers,” Rabb said.

The bill’s key provisions include:

  • Making special elections for state and municipal offices nonpartisan and more accessible to both candidates and voters.
  • Requiring that special elections happen sooner when a seat becomes vacant more than 90 days before the next election.
  • Requiring automatic mail-in voting for all elections while providing county boards of election with the option to establish satellite voting sites.
  • Subsidizing special elections from restitution paid by elected officials who have vacated their seats because of a felony conviction.
  • Allowing candidates to electronically obtain nomination petition signatures.

Rabb said he believes as more people choose to register as independent instead of with the two major parties in a state that prohibits independent voters from participating in primary elections, his legislation would help open the first of several vital avenues of political expression for the more than 1 million Pennsylvania voters who are otherwise rendered second-class members of the electorate.