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Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 5, 2014 04:36 PM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: Early Voting - No-excuse Absentee Ballots
I will shortly re-introduce two bills to give Pennsylvania voters an opportunity enjoyed by voters in most states – the unconditional right to vote by absentee ballot.

Early voting benefits all voters since emergencies and unplanned work and family demands occur indiscriminate of party registration, but is especially used by seniors and those with families and single-parent households. The share of early votes has been growing in each election cycle, from about one in seven during the 2000 presidential election to more than one in three in 2012. In fact, in Western states, which have the longest tradition of early voting, more than half of all votes were cast early.

Among early-voting methods, no-excuse absentee voting has the advantage of avoiding the additional expense involved in physically opening and staffing polling places before election day for early voting, the other primary method used, and almost every state with early-voting provides for no-excuse absentee voting. Early absentee voting has the benefit of being well- and widely tested, and Pennsylvania has more than 150 years of experience with the absentee voting process.
My proposal would operate almost identically to our current absentee vote process, with the principal distinctions being only the unconditional availability to registered votes, and procedural details needed to accomplish that.

I hope you will join not just in honoring Pennsylvania’s tradition of public participation in government, but in strengthening it by bringing the Commonwealth into the majority of states that allow early voting. Co-sponsors of SB 708 and 709 during the last session included Senators Smith, Farnese, Washington, Teplitz, Stack, Hughes, Rafferty, Fontana, Wozniak, Costa, Bakers, Boscola and Brewster

Document #1

Introduced as SB205

Description: The first bill (SB 708 in the last session) proposes a constitutional amendment clarifying the authority of the legislature to provide for early voting.

Document #2

Introduced as SB206

Description: The second bill (SB 709 in the last session) would amend the Election Code to make absentee ballots available to all registered voters without condition.