Report: PA Lags Behind in Modernizing Election System

voting booth

Pennsylvania lags behind other states in the nation in modernizing its election systems, according to a recent study by Washington-based, good-government nonprofit Common Cause.

According to the study, the Commonwealth State rated positively on:
  • training for poll workers
  • accommodating disabled voters
  • and record keeping.

What Pennsylvania isn’t so great at? The report cites:

  • lack of online voting registration
  • the state’s requirement that voters must have a reason to request an absentee ballot
  • and the lack of early voting

The Common Cause study evaluated Pennsylvania’s progress in implementing 19 recommendations made in January by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, as well at the progress of Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina. Pennsylvania was scored “satisfactory” on six, “mixed” on six, and “unsatisfactory” on six. One recommendation was not applicable.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

The satisfactory ratings included the state’s integration of voting registration with the motor-vehicle agency, use of schools as polling places, recruiting to expand polling station volunteers, training, and two issues related to easy site access to polling stations.

The state received unsatisfactory grades on online voting, early voting, interstate exchange of voter information, a failure to establish voting centers where people can vote outside their precinct, access for people who are not strong English speakers and clear language used in voting material.

Without legislation, the state has limited ability to implement some of those 19 recommendations, said Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Department of State. Mandating change is further complicated by the autonomy counties have in establishing voting procedures and other changes. The advantage of local control is the ability to address a community’s specific needs, Ruman said.

Many nonprofits and organizations advocating for fair elections lauded the report for bringing the information to light.

Marian Schneider, senior attorney with the Advancement Project, said:

“I think that the state has a bully pulpit, and they could be out in front of a lot of these issues,” said Marian Schneider, senior attorney with the Advancement Project.

In an executive summary, Common Cause noted these overall conclusions of the study:

  • States across the country – included in the report and beyond – are failing to give voters as many options as possible when it comes to voting before Election Day. This could suppress turnout and lead to long lines for those that vote
  • States that are not covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act are failing to adopt the Commission’s recommendation to provide sufficient bilingual support for limited English-proficient populations. This means that our democracy is not as inclusive and participatory as its promise;
  • A majority of states have adopted electronic systems to seamlessly integrate voter data acquired through Departments of Motor Vehicles with statewide voter registration lists; although not specifically recommended by the Commission, we urge states to replicate this success by ensuring seamless integration of data acquired through all voter registration agencies, including public assistance agencies and healthcare exchanges;
  • When it comes to poll-worker training, most states take a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction approach; this lack of uniformity could easily cause confusion for workers and voters alike, thereby keeping lines long;
  • Six states conduct post-election audits as the Commission recommends; however none of these states has fully auditable elections because at least some of the voting systems do not produce a voter-verifiable paper record.

To read more about the study as it relates to Pennsylvania, click here.

To read more about the study itself, click here.

To read more about Pennsylvania voting laws, click here.



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