Tuesday, July 09, 2019
What Happened to Pa.'s Open Primary Bill?
I've told you that the Pa. State Senate recently approved a bill to open primary elections to independent voters. The legislation currently sits in the House State Gov't Committee, with no hearings scheduled at this time. But since the prime sponsor is Republican Joe Scarnati, and the House is Republican, this reform might actually pass.
This legislation was opposed by eight state senators, three Democrats and two Republicans.
Scarnati has argued that his "legislation will give over 740,000 registered unaffiliated voters the right to participate in the primary election process. Specifically, on the day of the primary election, it will allow these voters to choose to cast their vote on either the Republican or Democrat ballot. Voters who are registered with either the Republican or Democratic Party will continue to be required to vote on their respective ballots.
"According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 states utilize some form of an open primary for unaffiliated voters. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.
"In our most recent primary election, only 18 percent of Pennsylvania’s registered voters went to the ballot box to cast a vote. The low turnout can in part be attributed to voters feeling disenfranchised by the extremes of both major parties, who have taken control of our primary process. Allowing more people the opportunity to have a voice in their representation is an important step toward ensuring democracy."
Scarnati's sentiments are shared by Open Primaries. This organization makes the following points:
- 86% of Americans believe the government is broken
- 43% of Americans, including 50% of Millennials, identify as politically independent
- 70% of Americans support open primaries
- Primaries are conducted with taxpayer money. The closed presidential primaries in 2016 cost taxpayers a quarter billion dollars, yet left out 26.3 million voters