Pa. Dems push to get voter registration bills out of committee

     A group of Democratic lawmakers held a press conference to call attention to the bills they feel are being unfairly tamped down in GOP-led committees. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

    A group of Democratic lawmakers held a press conference to call attention to the bills they feel are being unfairly tamped down in GOP-led committees. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

    A group of legislative Democrats are pushing no fewer than twelve bills on voter registration in the House and Senate. They would model expanded voting and voter registration in Pennsylvania after reforms already done in other states.

    However, Democrats haven’t even been able to get the measures past the first stage of consideration in the GOP-controlled chambers — the House and Senate State Government Committees.

    One of the proposed measures would allow workers a few paid hours off to vote—something already done in 23 states. Another would allow early voting. That’s law in 37 states. Yet another would institute automatic voter registration. Eight — and soon to be nine — states do that.

    Allegheny County Representative Tony DeLuca said he thinks these and similar bills would have a good shot at passing full chambers.

    But all session — and in some cases, for several sessions — they’ve been sitting untouched in those committees.

    DeLuca said the problem is that voter registration has become a far too political issue.

    “Let’s be truthful about it,” he said, speaking rhetorically to GOP lawmakers. “Put it up there and let your members vote on it. If you want to vote no, you vote no.”

    Bucks County Representative Daryl Metcalfe, who chairs the House State Government Committee, didn’t return a request for comment. His Senate counterpart — Dauphin County’s Mike Folmer — isn’t convinced reforms are vital.

    “While I think it’s an indefeasible right to vote, I also think it’s a responsibility,” Folmer said. “And with any responsibility, there should be a certain amount of things that you have to do.”

    Folmer maintained he’s not holding anything up. He said there are bigger election issues to tackle before expanding registration.

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