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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2020 11:53 AM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Nonpartisan Municipal Elections
In the near future, I will be re-introducing legislation to permit municipalities to conduct more democratic and open elections of local leaders. This bill will provide an option for municipalities to conduct nonpartisan, ranked-choice elections for all local offices.

Nonpartisan elections are common throughout the United States, with 85 of the largest 100 cities omitting party labels on primary ballots. In Philadelphia, 23% or nearly a quarter-million voters effectively don’t get a say in who becomes mayor, represents them on city council, or runs the District Attorney’s office due simply to their party affiliation. Additionally, a growing number of Americans have grown tired of the two major parties bickering and have declared themselves independents. Moving to a nonpartisan contest allows all registered voters to be heard while loosening the reins of power from political machines.

The advantages of shifting to nonpartisan municipal elections are many. Along with expanding true franchise to all voters, elections without party labels improve our democracy through a strong competition of ideas. Candidates are forced to appeal to a broader coalition of voters in order to prevail, rather than focusing on a narrow base of partisans. The recent historic election of Lori Lightfoot to Mayor of Chicago is a fine example of how outsider candidates with a strong platform can upend the political machine.

Though less common, ranked-choice voting further streamlines and strengthens our democracy by allowing to state their true preference for candidates in order. Ranked-choice voting not only reduces the number of elections, but also results in the election of candidates truly representative of the electorate’s preferences and increases voter turnout, according to the nonpartisan voting rights organization FairVote. As an added bonus, a 2016 study published in the journal Electoral Studies showed that campaigns conducted under ranked-choice voting are less negative than under the current two election system.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation to improve civic engagement and voter turnout in Pennsylvania’s municipal elections. If you have any questions or concerns, you may address them to my Harrisburg office at 717-787-5970.

Introduced as SB59