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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 10, 2017 12:00 PM
From: Representative Duane D. Milne
To: All House members
Subject: Election Ballot Reform: remove candidates' geographic designation
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to pull out the provision in the Pennsylvania Election Code that requires candidates’ county or municipality of residence be identified alongside their names on primary election ballots. I stipulate “primary,” because as you know, the geographic designation does not apply in general elections.

The Election Code currently stipulates that candidates standing for an election before the voters of more than one county must have their county of residence noted on the primary ballot. For those candidates selected by voters whom reside entirely within one given county, or any legislative district drawn entirely within one given county, the municipality of residence of the candidate shall be indicated on the primary election ballot.

I am urging this reform of the ballot for a series of reasons. First, as a purely practical matter, no compelling rationale exists for this information to be included on the ballot. Neither House staff nor the Department of State reports any specific reason for noting his information on the ballot. The matter seems a case of a practice that started at some point and perpetuates as a practice out of inertia (and the Code not being updated).

Secondly, geographic designation is the only demographic piece of data stipulated in conjunction with candidates’ names on the primary ballot. Considerations such as gender, age, professional credentials, etc. are not noted nor allowed. No particular reason appears evident to single out “geography” as the one demographic variable identified on ballots (and no other candidate descriptors). Nor should any be permitted, per reason three below.

Third, as a government best practice, election ballots should be completely devoid of anything except the names of the candidates. Doing so helps focus voters that much more on choosing among candidates per se, their respective substantive merits as candidates, and the kind of campaigns run overall.

Fourth, philosophically, one could argue that inclusion of the geographic variable on the ballot creates an unintended form of campaign advertising to an extent. This of course is not consistent with best practice standards in conducting elections in a democracy. To the contrary, election ballots should be “neutral” in all respects.

I would welcome your support of this government reform legislation! - D Milne