PHILADELPHIA- (March 9th, 2015) Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement about his intention to introduce legislation that would dramatically increase voter registration in Pennsylvania to include all eligible citizens:
“50 years ago, thousands of people marched in Selma, Alabama, to fight for the right to vote for ALL Americans. Many gave their lives in that struggle. We have made much progress as a nation since then, but the dream of universal access to the polls is something that is still yet to be obtained. To honor those who marched and died in Selma, I will be introducing legislation that will make it easier for individuals to register to vote in Pennsylvania. The idea is simple: State government will streamline the voter registration process by automatically registering all eligible individuals to vote when they use the services of a state agency.
“The legislation, based on a similar law in Oregon, would essentially change our voter registration system from an “opt-in” system to an “opt-out” system. Under current law, citizens are given the option to “opt-in” by filling out a voter registration form when they apply for a public benefit, service or license through the Department of Transportation or other state agencies currently authorized to assist with registering voters. Under my proposal, a state agency would automatically collect an individual’s relevant voting-related information with the application and send it electronically to the Department of State and to the counties for purposes of registering the voter. Prior to completing the registration, a voter would receive a notice allowing them to select a political party affiliation or to decline registration. If the individual does not “opt out” within 21 days, they will be added to the voter rolls.
“It is estimated that Oregon will add more than 300,000 new voters to its rolls in just a single year by implementing this system. This is something that Pennsylvania should be looking to copy and expand upon. Increasing voter participation should not be a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, but an American issue. We must honor the memory of those who died at Selma and for the right to vote by passing this legislation.”
Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.