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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: December 11, 2012 04:11 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 a right enjoyed by voters in most states – the right to vote before election day by absentee ballot without having to provide a reason.

Early voting benefits all voters. Emergencies and unanticipated work and family demands occur indiscriminately of party registration or inclination, and accounts of the recent presidential election indicate that supporters of both candidates took equal advantage of it. The share of early votes cast is growing in each election cycle. The share increased from about one in seven during the 2000 presidential election to nearly one in three in 2008. Estimate for the 2012 election were that more than two early votes would be cast for every three cast on election day.

No-excuse absentee voting has the advantage of avoiding additional expenses needed to open and staff polling places before election day for early voting, which is the other primary method employed, and it is used in virtually every early-voting state. It thus has the advantage of being well-tested, and it is a process Pennsylvania has had experience with for more than 150 years. My proposal would operate in an identical fashion to our current absentee voting process, with the principal distinction being only the unconditional availability to registered voters.

I hope you will join in continuing and honoring Pennsylvania’s history of public participation in government by bringing it into the majority practice on early voting. The ability to exercise a fundamental right should not be a test of commitment that most other Americans do not have to face.

Document #1

Introduced as SB708

Description: The first bill proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to provide for no-excuse absentee ballots. Co-sponsors of SB 1172 in the last session included Senators Boscola, Farnese, Ferlo, Fontana, Hughes, Rafferty, Solobay and Stack.

Document #2

Introduced as SB709

Description: The second bill proposes a change to the Election Code that makes absentee ballots available upon request to any registered voter. Co-sponsors of SB 1171 in the last session included Senators Boscola, Farnese, Fontana, Hughes, Rafferty and Solobay.