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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 7, 2017 12:45 PM
From: Representative Brian Sims
To: All House members
Subject: Expanding Opportunities for Pennsylvanians to Vote
In the near future, I will be reintroducing legislation to give Pennsylvanians additional access to the ballot box by allowing “in-person” absentee ballot voting prior to the Primary or General Election and also no-excuse absentee ballot voting by mail.

The first part of my legislation would enable in-person absentee voting permitting voters to receive, fill out and cast their absentee ballot all in one trip, rather than having to return it through the mail. The in-person process would not require the voter to provide any excuse for using this method.

My legislation removes some restrictions on “mail-in” absentee ballots for qualified voters as well. Under current Pennsylvania law, qualified voters may only use a mail-in absentee ballot given very specific reasons, and the voter must explain his or her reason in advance. Valid reasons are restricted to an illness or disability, absence from their municipality of residence, observance of a religious holiday, or official duties related to conducting the election. The bill would remove the requirement to declare what the reason is for the mail-in absentee ballot.

Across the country, the trend in the last decade has been for states to expand opportunities for pre-election voting, including allowing absentee ballots not requiring an excuse. Appearing in-person at a voter registration office to apply for, receive and cast an absentee ballot all in one trip is also considered part of this trend designed to increase voter participation.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, thirty-four states and the District of Columbia now offer some form of early voting. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots without an excuse. It is time for Pennsylvania to allow and encourage all forms of legitimate voting in our elections.

Please join me in supporting this important legislation.

Introduced as HB1117