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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: June 13, 2019 02:01 PM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank and Sen. Steven J. Santarsiero, Sen. Lisa M. Boscola, Sen. Wayne D. Fontana
To: All Senate members
Subject: Absentee Voting Reform
We shortly will introduce legislation to create in Pennsylvania the opportunity that most states for decades have allowed their voters – the ability to cast their ballots securely and conveniently over an extended and reasonable period of time. This legislation would amend absentee ballot provisions in the Election Code significantly, and represents the governor’s position on early voting.

We all understand that voters effectively are handcuffed by the human limit on how much candidate and issue information they can recall in the voting booth, a limit that prompts particular criticism at elections with long ballots, unfamiliar candidates or complex issues. The requirement to physically appear during a single 13-hour window also is an obstacle to informed participation in any election, and especially so when the weather is unpredictable or harsh and turnout is high, and for voters who are infirm or juggling multiple competing responsibilities. Instead of giving voters a path to assist them to cast an informed ballot that will be counted, current requirements needlessly challenge their commitment and too often hinder their ability to vote, leaving election results unreasonably subject to random circumstances.

Our legislation proposes to fix that by adopting universal, “no-excuse” absentee voting; establishing a true “permanent absentee voter” status; and amending the timeframe and deadlines for absentee voting. It also will make changes to the absentee voting process to ensure the integrity of the process while simplifying the application and submission process, and to ensure that all legitimate votes are counted. This process will allow voters the opportunity to better know who or what they are voting for, and to trust the results. The experience of other states has established that changes we are proposing will strengthen the credibility of elections through higher participation without increased fraud risk. Pennsylvania’s population continues to age and younger voters’ lives are growing busier and more complex; it makes sense to adjust our law and policies to these realities rather than to expect the opposite to occur.

We hope you will you will lend your support to this effort to increase the ability of Pennsylvania residents to be heard.

Introduced as SB818