HARRISBURG, May 3, 2013 – Aimed at encouraging greater voter participation in Pennsylvania elections, the state Senate Democratic Policy Committee will hold a hearing in Pittsburgh next week.

The hearing will be held on Thursday, May 9 at 10 a.m. in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse.

Policy HearingHeld at the request of Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington), the hearing will focus 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 will likely be 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).

“While many of these proposals are great ideas, I hope panelists will discuss any idea that would give voters greater access, accommodation and interest in electoral participation,” Smith said.

In addition to a number of senators representing different areas of Pennsylvania, the roundtable panel is also expected to include:

· 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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