For Voters in Pennsylvania

Voters in Pennsylvania have myriad online tools and resources available to them, including:

If you live in Pennsylvania, you should also be cognizant of these pieces of voting-related legislation that are pending in the state House and Senate:

  • Senate Bill 37, introduced by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Republican serving Lancaster County, amends Title 25 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes that deal with voter registration. SB 37 would provide for, among other things, electronic voter registration.Proponents of the bill believe that the legislation say it would:

    – Reduce state and county costs associated with processing voter registration forms

    – Strengthen the security of the registration data

    – Make the registration process more efficient

    – Ensure greater poll book accuracy

    – Expand options for voters, allowing them to register to vote from their homes or office computers 24 hours a day up until seconds before the registration deadline.

  • State Rep. Jesse White, a Democrat serving portions of Washington and Allegheny counties, during the 2013-14 legislative session introduced House Bill 1505, which would, among other things, create an online voter registration process for new voters and existing voters to update information. To read the full text of the bill, click here.
  • House Bill 178 was introduced during the 13-14 session by Rep. Brenden Boyle, a Democrat serving Philadelphia and Montgomery County. It is a bill that would institute same-day registration. Here is how Rep. Boyle framed the legislation in his co-sponsorship memo:“Voters will have the opportunity to register at their polling place on Election Day by providing a form(s) of identification that provide a photo, name, and permanent address.  Examples include a valid driver’s license or government ID card. Expired forms of ID can also be provided along with a current proof of address.

    Six states, Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, Idaho, New Hampshire and Wyoming, have same day voter registration programs.  Voter turnout in these states averaged 61 percent in the 1996 and 2000 Presidential elections; 10 percent higher than the national average.

    Critics of same day registration often claim that this will open the door to increased voter fraud. However, in the years since these states have instituted same day voter registration, there has not been one documented incident of voter fraud as a result of same day voter registration.”

  • Senate Bill 404 was introduced last year by Sen. Dominic Peleggi, a Republican serving parts of Chester and Delaware counties. The legislation is designed to:
    1. Create an official online statewide boundary database for counties, municipalities, wards and precincts, developed by the Department of State in consultation with the Legislative Data Processing Center and made available on the Legislative Data Processing Center’s website.2. Create an official online election results and registration information database, developed by the Department of State in consultation with the Legislative Data Processing Center and made available on the Legislative Data Processing Center’s website.

      3. Establish in statute that population data approved by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission will be used in any congressional redistricting legislation considered by the General Assembly (this was done via Senate Resolution 148, adopted unanimously by both chambers, in the 2011-12 session).

    He wrote in his co-sponsorship memo:

    “This proposal will have many benefits, including providing all interested parties with a continually updated boundary map and greatly simplifying the census “boundary reconciliation” project that is done every 10 years.”

  • Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican serving parts of Centre and Mifflin counties last year introduced House Bill 2351. That bill would:The legislation would also add provisions requiring the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) to allow 17-year-olds to register to vote.
  1. In the district register for a primary, show eligible individuals 17 years of age who will turn 18 years of age before the general or municipal election.
  2. In the district register, provide a prompt for election officers to lock 17-year-old votes out of referenda or special elections, or for counties with optical scan systems, a prompt to hand 17-year-old voters a special ballot.
  3. Operate so that 17-year-olds who are not registered and enrolled in a party are ineligible to vote in a primary election.
  4. This legislation also clarifies that 17-year-old voters are not eligible to vote in a special election that occurs the same day as the primary or for any referendum. Also clarifies that registered 17-year-olds are eligible to sign and circulate nomination petitions.  In the past, similar legislation has had bi-partisan support.
  • Last year Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat serving Montgomery and Delaware counties, introduced SB 1446. The bill would create a Clean Elections Fund to provide participating candidates with public money to finance their election campaigns. Any candidate running for governor, senator, representative, auditor general, attorney general or state treasurer will be eligible to receive public funding. To qualify for the money a candidate must collect the prescribed number of qualifying contributions of $5 from registered voters within their electoral district. For example, a candidate for state senate would have to collect 175 donations of $5 to become a certified candidate. Each certified candidate is then given an amount from the fund, determined by the office they are seeking and whether or not they are in a contested race, with which to run their campaign for office. No other money may be sought, collected or spent by the candidate once they have collected the public financing.

He wrote in his co-sponsorship memo:

“There is a problem in our system of government when a candidate for office must either know wealthy donors or be one themselves. This system hurts us all when those who pay for ever pricier elections are perceived to be influencing the officials who represent them in office. I would like to give people the chance to run for office based on the broad public support for their ideas, not the breadth of their supporters’ wallets.”

  • Sen. Lisa Boscala, a Democrat serving portions of Lehigh and Northampton counites, introduced Senate Bill 364, which would amend the Election Code to provide for Election Day Registration. By implementing an EDR process, eligible persons are able to register and vote on the same day of any primary, municipal or general election by completing a registration card and providing proof of residence.

She wrote in her co-sponsorship memo:

“Nine states allow for registration on or before the day of an election: Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Wyoming.  Advantages include increased voter accessibility and convenience, fewer provisional ballots to be processed, and a reduction in people turned away for not pre-registering properly.  Also, by allowing voter registration to continue up to and including election day, voters can take into account the news, debates, advertisements or any other aspects of a candidate’s campaign taking place in that period of time.

In the 2008 General Election, voter turnout in states that allow for same-day registration was over 7 percent higher than in states that do not.  Similarly, 2006 election results show states experienced an increase in voter turnout by 10-12 percent compared to states without same-day registration.”

  • Sen. Boscola last year also introduced Senate Bill 363, which would require that the Statement of Voter’s Rights be visible in all voter registration offices and polling places.
  • Sen. Shirley Kitchen in 2013 introduced Senate Resolution 28 that would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study on the implementation of early voting and same-day registration in Pennsylvania. In a co-sponsorship memo she said:

“Through this resolution, the General Assembly will acquire data regarding the resources needed for implementation of these initiatives.”

  • Sen. Leach during the 2013-14 session introduced Senate Bill 1152, which deals with early voting. It was referred to committee. Here is what Leach had to say about the bill in his co-sponsorship memo:

“This bill will provide for polling place to be open across the commonwealth for the two weeks prior to Election Day. No excuse would be required to vote early and the polling places would be public, centrally located and well published, just as they are on Election Day…My bill is modeled on Florida’s successful early voting provisions, in place for the 2008 election cycle. Early voting sites would be open 8 hours every week day and a total of 8 hours every weekend in the two weeks leading up to election day. No one who votes early would be allowed to vote on Election Day, just as absentee voters are barred from voting on Election Day, and results of early voting would not be tabulated until after polls close on Election Day to prevent early returns from influencing later voting.”

  • Sen. Matt Smith during the 2013-14 session introduced Senate Bill 976. The legislation would require the PA Department of State to develop a secure online system for military and overseas voters to return their absentee ballots electronically.  Currently, military and overseas voters can receive their absentee ballot by secure electronic connection but they still have to print out the ballot and fill it out by hand and return it by mail. In his co-sponsorship memo, Smith wrote:

“According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states plus the District of Columbia offer some form of electronic ballot return for uniformed military and overseas voters.  It is time for Pennsylvania to join the majority of other states that offer members of the military and overseas voters the ease and accessibility of electronic voting.”

  • Sen. Mike Folmer during the 2013-14 session introduced Senate Bill 195, formerly Senate Bill 21. The legislation would eliminate unfair hurdles to ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. Here’s what he said in a co-sponsorship memo:

“No state makes it more difficult for minor party and independent candidates to run for public office than Pennsylvania; current law can require them to collect as many as 34 times the number of signatures as the major party candidate. To appear on the November ballot for any office in a given district, minor party and independent candidates must submit a minimum number of valid signatures equal to two percent (2%) of the largest vote cast for an elected candidate in the last statewide election.  Meanwhile, major party candidates automatically qualify for the November ballot with no signature threshold – they collect signatures only to appear in the Primary Election (minor party or independent candidates do not participate in the Primary Election).” The legislation would:

  1. Stipulate that an independent candidate needs to collect the same amount of signatures as the major party candidates in order to appear on the November ballot
  2. Stipulate that a “minor political party” garner between 0.05 and 15 percent of the total number of registered voters in the Commonwealth as of 21 days prior to the date of the Primary Election in order to qualify as a “political party.”
  • Earlier this year Rep. Ronald Waters introduced House Bill 2197, which would require the Secretary of the Commonwealth to annually provide Pennsylvania’s school districts with voter registration forms and require the Department to track how many high school students register to vote through this process. In his co-sponsorship memo Waters wrote:

“In an effort to encourage civic participation by young people, several states have changed their voter registration rule. In Hawaii, eligible 16-year-olds are allowed to pre-register so that their voter registration status is automatically activated at age 18. States like Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, Maine, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Texas open pre-registration to 17-year-olds. Because students in effect are “captive audiences,” high schools are an ideal place for engaging young people and incorporating them into our representative democracy.  Lack of participation results in a “disengagement cycle” that becomes difficult to break. Therefore, having common sense practices to fully engage our young people in voter registration process is crucial.”

  • Rep. Neal Goodman introduced House Bill 417, which deals with no-excuse absentee ballots. The legislation would permit any qualified elector to vote by absentee ballot for any reason.  The procedure for obtaining an absentee ballot would remain the same.

5 thoughts on “For Voters in Pennsylvania

  1. Pingback: Need to Register to Vote in PA? Here’s Your Two-Month Warning | Pennsylvanians for Fair Elections

  2. Pingback: Election 2014: How to Vote by Absentee Ballot in PA | Pennsylvanians for Fair Elections

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