Reforms could make elections more fair for all Pa. voters — and candidates

    As I see it, voter suppression is practiced equally by both major parties. There are some reforms that people of every party should support that would give Pennsylvania a better election system and government.

    Republicans argue that the voter ID bill (HB 934) will stave off fraudulence at the voting box. Democrats doubt the existence of the type of fraud that would be prevented by a photo ID, and rail against voter suppression. As I see it, voter suppression is practiced equally by both major parties.

    In fact, there is no evidence to support the claim that photo IDs would stop any significant voter fraud. It is true that requiring a photo ID would create obstacles for some citizens trying to exercise their right to vote, and bill HB934 should be opposed. However, It is ironic to hear Democrats claiming to be champions of fair ballot access.

    Pennsylvania’s electoral process is crippled by several practices that are supported and defended by the major parties.

    Firstly, the closed primary system, a system that is supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. The primary races constitute the critical first round of voting and determine who will be on the general ballot. Yet, while we all pay for major party primaries, only some can vote in them. Independent and non-affiliated voters are barred from participating.

    The major parties argue that allowing open primaries would encourage “shenanigans.” In states where open primaries exist, there is no evidence to support this theory. The issue is voter access, plain and simple.

    Another unfair practice that exists in our state is that of requiring independent and third-party candidates to collect many thousands more signatures to get their names on the statewide ballot than do major party candidates. Under the Voters’ Choice Act, introduced by Senator Folmer, independents and candidates of political bodies would need to collect the same number of signatures as the candidates of the two major parties.

    Advocates for voting rights need to oppose the voter ID bill. We also need to support two current open-primaries bills: HB 994, sponsored by Rep. Depasquale; and SB 1295, sponsored by Sen. Anthony Williams. Additionally, we must support The Voter Choice Act (SB 21).

    The problem is that these important pieces of legislation remain dead-on-arrival in the house and senate. Voter and ballot access is stunted in our state because neither major party will stand up and support real and meaningful improvements in our electoral process.

    Passage of these reforms would give Pennsylvanians a truly post-partisan election system fostering voter participation, and better government. We should all support these bills regardless of our affiliation, or lack thereof.

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