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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 3, 2018 01:33 PM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: Early and absentee voting
I will shortly re-introduce two bills to extend to Pennsylvania voters the broader opportunity enjoyed by voters in most states across the country, upholding the public interest by allowing ballots to be cast securely and conveniently before Election day. Our current requirement to be physically present during a single, 13-hour span is echoed in a minority of states, and needlessly and senselessly puts voters to a test of their good fortune to avoid or to adjust to employment and personal demands that often are immovable and unpredictable.

While Pennsylvania requires voters to fall within a specifically identified category or circumstance in order to vote outside the polling place and the statutory period, residents of most states have a far broader, more convenient and practical opportunity over days, weeks and locations, to express their voices. With even "heavy turnout" elections rarely involving a majority of residents qualified to vote, it is clear why this is important, and the share of early voting ballots has been growing nationally in every election cycle, from about one in seven during the 2000 presidential election to more than one in three in 2012. In states with the longest tradition of use, more than half of all votes are cast in early voting.

I most recently introduced these proposals as SB 205 and SB 206 in the 2015-2016 General Assembly. Co-sponsors in previous sessions have included Senators Baker, Boscola, Brewster, Browne, Costa, Farnese, Fontana, Hughes, and Leach. I hope you will join me in strengthening the Commonwealth's more than four centuries of democratic government by these proposals.

Document #1

Introduced as SB33

Description: My first proposal would amend section 14 of Article VII of the Commonwealth Constitution, authorizing the General Assembly to statutorily provide for voters to cast ballots without needing to physically appear at the polling place on Election Day.

Document #2

Description: My second proposal would amend the Election Code by repealing the provisions that restrict the right to vote by absentee ballot to only certain categories of voters who are unable to attend the polling booth on Election day, and to instead provide a right to all qualified electors not in prison to request and to vote by an absentee ballot without other condition.