Voters across Pennsylvania who are registered independents had to have adopted a party a month ago to fully participate in Tuesday’s primary. Inevitably, though, some unaffiliated voters who missed the deadline are disappointed that they’re essentially locked out of the election.
Take Bernie Sanders supporter Josh Cohen. He arrived at his polling place in South Philadelphia hoping to vote for his guy. “But when I got in, they found that I wasn’t affiliated with a party, so I couldn’t actually vote,” Cohen said.
Initially, poll workers were unsure what kind of instructions to give Cohen, but they eventually told him that though he’s barred from participating in partisan contests, he could vote for ballot questions.
Outside the polling place at the Columbus Square Recreation Center, Cohen elaborated on why he turned out.
“I really like the fact that there’s a candidate out there that you have the option of voting for that isn’t funded by the general super-PACs,” he said.
But in Tuesday’s primary, voting for Sanders wasn’t an option for Cohen. In states like Pennsylvania that have closed primaries, Sanders hasn’t done so well. He generally has more support among independents than his rival Hillary Clinton. In Pennsylvania, there are more than a million unaffiliated registered voters.
Cohen said he hopes voting procedures become more open in the Commonwealth to allow independents to vote in primaries and for same-day registration. But until then, he said, “I’ll be sure to check my affiliation before. This is the first time I tried voting in a primary.”
After his loss in New York primary last week, Sanders slammed that state’s closed primary system, saying nearly a third of voters there were ineligible to cast a ballot
New York and Pennsylvania are among more than a dozen states that forbid voters from crossing party lines in primary contests. The Commonwealth requires voters to switch parties 30 days before a primary, while New York voters had to change parties in October in order to participate in the April primary.
“I would hope that in future primary elections in New York state, the officials there make some fundamental changes about how they do business,” Sanders said at a New York campaign rally.
Polls are favoring Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, the largest of the five states voting on Tuesday.