bosc policy1
HARRISBURG, May 9, 2013 – The state Senate Democratic Policy Committee today held a hearing in Pittsburgh to discuss ways to encouraging greater voter participation in Pennsylvania elections.
Held at the request of Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington), the hearing focused on proposals aimed at making voting simpler and more accessible while maintaining security and integrity of the process.
“The strength of our representative democracy is dependent on citizens letting their voice be heard at the ballot box,” Smith said. “The greater the voter participation, the stronger our democracy; we should do all we can to encourage more people to register and vote.”
Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh/Monroe) pointed out that only 67 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in last year’s presidential election. She added that in 2011, only 23.1 percent of registered Pennsylvanians voted.
“In my view, our approach to this issue should be simple,” Boscola said. “If it encourages people to register and vote; makes it easier for people to register and vote; or makes our elections and campaigns more fair, then the Senate should be fully considering it.”
Some of the reform bills that were discussed would;
• allow for early voting prior to election day (Fontana);
• allow voters to cast an absentee ballot without being required to provide an absentee ballot excuse (Schwank); and
• allow for same-day registration (Boscola).
Noting that voter participation is often a matter of convenience, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he supports same-day registration and early voting at secure, accessible and convenient locations. He also recommended targeted consolidation of some voting districts based on population changes.
Allen Kukovich, a former state senator from Westmoreland County who now represents Common Cause PA, said high levels of integrity and reliability are key to encouraging improved voter participation. He criticized the state’s controversial voter photo ID law for causing widespread confusion due to “constantly changing rulings, standards and procedures that kept coming out of the courts and Pennsylvania Department of State.”
Smith encouraged the panelists to discuss a wide range of ideas that would give voters “greater access, accommodation and interest in electoral participation.
“It is vitally important that as we work to increase access and participation, we also instill confidence in the system by making sure all efforts preserve the integrity of the electoral process.”
Joining Smith and Boscola at the hearing were Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), and Senators Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny), Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny), Christine Tartaglione(D-Phila.), and John Wozniak (D-Cambria).
Those who testified included:
• Rich Fitzgerald – Allegheny County Executive;
• Marisa Bartley – Urban League Young Professionals;
• Dr. John Green – Bliss Institute of Applied Politics;
• former state Sen. Allen Kukovich – Common Cause;
• Attorney Sara Rose – Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union; and • Marian Schneider – consulting attorney, Advancement Project.
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