It’s time to make vot­ing eas­ier in Pa.

The Phoenix - - OPINION -

Per­haps the most en­cour­ag­ing thing to come out of the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tions was not a Blue Wave or Red Re­sis­tance, but some­thing much more fun­da­men­tal. Par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Maybe it was out­rage at the first two years of Pres­i­dent Trump. Or maybe it was a yearn­ing for change, to shake up the sta­tus quo that has so in­fected places such as the state Capi­tol in Har­ris­burg.

What­ever it was, vot­ers turned out in far greater num­bers than most so-called off-year elec­tions. That is a good thing. Par­tic­i­pa­tion by an ac­tive, en­gaged, in­formed elec­torate is at the heart of our demo­cratic process.

Now we’d like to throw a lit­tle gas on the fire.

Es­pe­cially since the drum­beat to­ward the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion al­ready can be heard in Iowa, and New Hamp­shire, as hope­fuls hit the road to test the wa­ters for a pres­i­den­tial bid.

There are still too many ob­sta­cles for cit­i­zens who are look­ing to take part in the civic process. For years that has been thought to be why num­bers con­tin­ued to de­cline at the polls.

Vot­ers de­fied that trend in Novem­ber. Now it’s time to re­move the road­blocks that could al­low those num­bers to sag again.

First and fore­most, the state needs to re­move some of the silly bar­ri­ers that keep peo­ple from vot­ing.

Gov. Wolf is talk­ing about up­dat­ing the ab­sen­tee bal­lot vot­ing sys­tem, a balky bu­reau­cratic relic in bad need of an up­date. The cur­rent sys­tem sets un­re­al­is­tic dead­lines that too of­ten re­sult in bal­lots that are deemed ineligible for ar­riv­ing late.

We’d also like Penn­syl­va­nia to join the ranks of states cur­rently uti­liz­ing early and ex­tended vot­ing hours, even vot­ing by mail. In to­day’s world there is no need for our most pre­cious civic duty to have be con­fined to a sin­gle, 13-hour pe­riod, at a sin­gle lo­ca­tion.

But per­haps an even more log­i­cal place to start would be in the process by which vot­ers be­come el­i­gi­ble to cast their bal­lots – the process of reg­is­ter­ing to vote.

Penn­syl­va­nia con­tin­ues to throw a hur­dle in front of too many vot­ers at the very first gate­way to the process. Vot­ers here in the Key­stone State have up un­til a set date – 30 days in ad­vance of Elec­tion Day – to regis­ter to vote.

There have been calls in the past to change this balky process. They are be­ing raised again, by both Wolf and a long­time critic of the cur­rent process, state Rep. Ryan Biz­zarro, D-Erie. The newly minted chief deputy whip of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus is rein­tro­duc­ing a bill that would al­low same­day reg­is­tra­tion. In short, un­der Biz­zarro’s House Bill 101, any qual­i­fied voter would be able to show up at the polls on Elec­tion Day, pro­vide proof of their iden­tity and ad­dress, and be al­lowed to cast a bal­lot. The bal­lot would ini­tially be counted as pro­vi­sional un­til the reg­is­tra­tion was ap­proved by the Depart­ment of State.

Com­pare that to the sit­u­a­tion to­day, when many vot­ers show up at the polls only to learn they are ineligible be­cause they have not reg­is­tered in ad­vance, and are left with lit­tle op­tion – lit­er­ally on the out­side look­ing in.

It flies in the face of the ba­sic premise – get­ting as many peo­ple in­volved in the process as pos­si­ble.

Wolf is toy­ing with the idea of hav­ing au­to­matic voter reg­is­tra­tion when peo­ple ap­ply for a driver’s li­cense.

Biz­zarro World? We think not.

Cur­rently a slew of states, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia and many oth­ers, of­fer same-day voter reg­is­tra­tion. Sur­veys also show us that the states with same-day voter reg­is­tra­tion rou­tinely also have the high­est turnout num­bers.

We urge the Leg­is­la­ture to take quick ac­tion on Biz­zarro’s bill, and then ad­dress other stum­bling blocks by back­ing early vot­ing, vot­ing by mail, and open pri­maries.

The turnout in Novem­ber was en­cour­ag­ing. But it can be – and should be – even bet­ter by hav­ing our elected of­fi­cials take a few sim­ple steps to re­move the Key­stone State’s long his­tory of im­ped­i­ments to tak­ing part in the process.

It gets our vote.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.