HARRISBURG, June 13, 2017 — A group of Democratic lawmakers announced a package of bills today aimed at increasing voter participation in Pennsylvania.
“We are committed to reforming our election process by improving voting access and participation,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “Pennsylvania must join the growing number of states that are increasing options for individuals who want to register and vote.”
Hughes has authored automatic voter registration legislation (Senate Bill 608), which would change the voter registration process in Pennsylvania from an “opt-in” system to an “opt-out” system.
Sen. Lisa Boscola’s bills would allow for Election Day voter registration (Senate Bill 282) and would allow employees time off to vote on an Election Day (Senate Bill 284).
“We need to make voting more convenient and inclusive. It will strengthen our representative democracy,” said Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh). “These reform measures remove unnecessary roadblocks and make it easier for all Pennsylvanians to vote.”
Sen. Wayne Fontana’s legislation (Senate Bill 440) would allow early voting in Pennsylvania.
“To me, our task is simple. We need to find ways to make voting easier and more accommodating to the modern day, busy lives of our citizens,” said Fontana (D-Allegheny). “Early voting would help people who work several jobs, travel or may face uncertainty about making it to the polls on Election Day. My plan caters to the voters rather than making voters cater to some specific voting date within a 13-hour timeframe.”
At the news conference today, the lawmakers noted that although citizens are becoming more engaged in legislative issues on the state and national level, administrative barriers prevent citizens from participating in the electoral process. Their bills offer more flexibility and more convenient options to make it easier to register and vote.
The measures address automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, time off for voting, early voting, notification of voter registration eligibility for younger Pennsylvanians, and absentee ballot voting.
Currently, 38 states have some period of early voting, 31 states have no-excuse absentee voting, 28 states allow young people to pre-register to vote, 23 states mandate that employees must be permitted paid time off to vote on Election Day and 15 states have same-day voter registration.
Over the last five presidential election cycles, states that have implemented all or most of these reforms have had significantly higher voter turnout — 5 percent — than states that have not implemented the reforms, according to data from the United States Elections Project.
Voter Access Legislation Introduced by Lawmakers:
- Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery): Automatic voter registration (Senate Bill 608)
- Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton): Same-day voter registration (Senate Bill 282), time off for voting (Senate Bill 284)
- Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny): Early voting (Senate Bill 440)
- Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie): Same-day voter registration (House Bill 101)
- Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery): Voter pre-registration (House Bill 1145)
- Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny): Same-day voter registration (House Bill 945), early voting (House Bill 946)
- Edward Gainey (D-Allegheny): Automatic voter registration (House Bill 193)
- Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill): No excuse absentee voting (House Bill 1138)
- Robert Matzie (D-Beaver/Allegheny): Vote by mail
- Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne): Early voting (House Bill 427)
- Christopher Rabb (D-Philadelphia): Omnibus election reform (House Bill 1465)
- Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia): No excuse absentee voting and early voting (House Bill 1117)
- Pam Snyder (D-Washington/Fayette/Snyder): No excuse absentee voting and early voting (House Bill 75)