On Tuesday, some of Pennsylvania’s voters will participate in our electoral process by casting their vote in the 2019 Primary Election. These voters will decide which candidates’ names will appear on the ballot in the November General Election.
But 1.2 million of Pennsylvania’s tax-paying voters will have to sit this one out, just as they have for every primary election in Pennsylvania. Why?
Pennsylvania is one of nine states that have closed primaries, meaning that only Republicans and Democrats can cast a primary ballot. Non-affiliated voters, who make up more than 9% of Pennsylvania’s electorate, are left out of this supposedly democratic process. In a state where primary election voter turnout hovers around 18%, clearly something is amiss.
To make matters worse, many people don’t realize that ballot measures, for which all voters can vote, may appear on primary ballots. Since 1996, 16 ballot measures have been certified, four of which appeared on primary ballots. How many eligible voters stayed home on Primary Election Day in 2016 without realizing that their voices could have been heard?
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As Pennsylvania works on much needed election reforms that include amendments to Pennsylvania’s Constitution, some measures may appear on primary ballots. If we want to live up to the promises of a fair and just society, we need to ensure that all qualified voters are able to cast their ballots in all elections.
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania applauds State Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati’s (R-25) proposal to make Pennsylvania’s elections fairer, and we encourage his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats alike, to support SB 300. We are also pleased to see that Rep. Christopher Quinn (R-168) has proposed an identical bill in the Pennsylvania House, HB 192, and extend the same sentiment to Pennsylvania’s representatives. These bi-partisan bills will bring a much-needed and long overdue change to Pennsylvania’s elections.
All voters deserve the chance to have their voices heard in every election. Granting some voters privileges that are denied to other voters is unfair, un-democratic, and un-American. We call on Pennsylvania’s voters to contact your legislators and voice your support of SB 300 and HB 192.
Whether you’re a Republican, a Libertarian, a Democrat, a Green, or non-affiliated, if you value fair play and you believe that every vote should count, lend your voice to this effort.