Reader Poll: Should PA Allow Independents to Vote In Primaries?

Independents currently can’t vote in Pennsylvania’s primaries, but is that about to change?

As the 2019 primaries approach, some high profile elected officials in Harrisburg are pushing to end the closed primary system in the state.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) has sponsored a bill that would allow independent voters to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.

Scaranti tells the AP that this bill could help increase participation in the primary process and start getting some “moderation” as he believes extremism is currently taking place with Independents being shut out of this process.

The bill received a hearing last week in the Senate State Government committee, in part of a larger election reform package. It is also supported by committee chairman Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Gov. Tom Wolf.

There are 786,000 independent voters in the state, and the number has gone up 75% in the previous eight years according to the AP.

Despite support from some powerful state government officials, the bill is not universally endorsed.

Scarnati said GOP party officials have told him “they’re not happy about it,” while PA Democratic Party Chair Nancy Patton Mills said she would leave it up to the party’s elected officials, according to the AP.

Should Pennsylvania allow Independents to vote in the primaries? While selecting your answer, also please provide your party affiliation. If you are an Independent, please select the party you are most likely to identify with if you were allowed to vote in this primary.

This poll will expire on May 15 at 2 PM.

Should PA Allow Independents to Vote In Primaries?


  • Yes, Democrat (37%)
  • Yes, Republican (21%)
  • No, Democrat (21%)
  • No, Republican (21%)

Total Voters: 681

Loading ... Loading ...

May 8th, 2019 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Poll, Top Stories | 43 Comments

43 thoughts on “Reader Poll: Should PA Allow Independents to Vote In Primaries?”

  1. Dave says:

    Don’t like how the polling choices are stated. Independents should be allowed to vote and declare which party they will vote in the primary. They should not be only allowed to vote for one party. But I don’t think they should be able to split their primary ballot !

  2. FREEDOM says:

    Eliminate all Political parties have everyone run on one line in the Primary and the 2 Highest Vote getters go onto the General Election where the Highest Voter getter wins the Office .

    1. David Bockstanz says:

      That’s what they do in California and it effectively eliminate Republicans from the General Elections.

  3. FREEDOM says:

    All Ballot Questions should only be put on the General Election Ballot.

    1. Barricks Einwohner says:

      Agreed.

  4. Carol Kuniholm says:

    YES! Independent. Closed primaries are taxation without representation. Nationally, over 41% of voters are now independent. In PA it’s about 13%. Add the fact that in our legislative races many seats are uncontested. That means large #s of PA voters are registering with the party that control their district so they can have at least a small say.

    Who designed a poll that omitted independent & 3rd party responses?

    1. StevenTodd says:

      Excellent points. The layout of the poll actually reinforces the need for open primaries.

  5. Indies need not apply says:

    People should not be forced to be indentified as a member of one party or another. Unfortunately, with few exceptions most counties and municipalities in the Commonwealth have one party domination so to make a difference one is forced to make that declaration. I think this is a good idea for a variety of reasons and hope it comes to pass

  6. John Woodson says:

    This poll perfectly illustrates the problem. Why are only oarty members-and not independent voters- being asked this question? There are 800,000 independents in PA whose tax dollars pay for the primaries-their votes dont count in the primaries or apparently in PoliticsPA poll.

    1. StevenTodd says:

      “If you are an Independent, please select the party you are most likely to identify with if you were allowed to vote in this primary.”

      Reading comprehension is tough thing. It requires reading.

      1. Jody Ochs says:

        What a pompous response. So let them not pay taxes then!

      2. John Woodson says:

        Thanks for your gracious response. Clearly this paper doesnt understand indepndents at all. Independents are unaffilaited because they dont identify with either party. Thats why indepndnets were the deciding vote for both Obama and Trump.

    2. David Diano says:

      John-

      There are 2.5 million of voting age who aren’t even registered to vote who pay for elections as well. Most of the registered Dems and Republicans don’t voting in primaries either. So, your “tax dollars” point is meaningless.

      Also, most primaries are uncontested, so for those races it doesn’t even matter.

      The Independents CHOOSE not to participate. NOTHING stops them from switching their registration to D or R for a contested primary where they wish to voice an opinion and vote.

      But, even in General elections, the Independents turn out less than 20% (unless it’s presidential year).

      Mostly, the Independents don’t give a f*ck about voting or expressing an opinion, outside of once every 4 years.

  7. Sam says:

    If you don’t want to pick a side then you don’t get to tell that side who to nominate. Can’t have your cake and eat it. If there is someone who is worthy of your vote then change your registration for the primary and then change back.

    1. SARAH LYONS says:

      If you want to be in a club that is “members only” then your club should pay for any elections it holds. However, elections for PUBLIC office are TAXPAYER funded so all members of the public who are registered voters in a given district and who pay taxes to fund the elections and pay the salaries of the elected officials should be allowed to participate.

      1. Sam says:

        No one is barring the Independents from membership in a party, they bar themselves. It costs nothing to join the party registration.

        1. SARAH LYONS says:

          The issue at hand is the right to vote, not the right to join an organization. No American should be forced to join an organization as a precondition for having the right to vote.

          The only thing barring the party’s from paying for their member only elections is a state subsidy which will be ending in the future as it is an unsustainable position. 40% of Americans self-identify as independent. The trend away from party’s is not new but has been taking place over the last 30 years. Democracy requires the consent of the governed and voters are rebelling against the ways elections are controlled by party establishment.

          Also, State’s violate their own Constitutions by using tax dollars to underwrite political party elections. It amounts to a contribution and taxpayers / voters will not continue to support it.

        2. Jody Ochs says:

          Both parties are corrupt! That’s why they choose not to belong! Good God People. If they pay taxes, they should get to vote. It’s not rocket science.

          1. Montco PA Dem says:

            You do get to vote – in the general election in November. If you want a say in picking the candidates, join a party or start one yourself.

  8. Blyden says:

    Are primaries a public part of our electoral process or are they internal to parties, which are ultimately private bodies?

    If primaries are a public institution, then EVERYONE ought to be able to vote in them, and there should not be any restrictions on the party affiliations of who can win. That is, there should be no requirement that they produce one D and one R nominee. It should be possible for the result to be too candidates of the same party, or candidate that have no party affiliation, etc.

    If primaries are a private element of party decision-making, then each party ought to run its own, with whatever rules it wants, and without state involvement and certainly without the state funding the process! And, if we are going to do it that way, then we should also adopted ranked choice voting (RCV) or some other voting method that eliminates the spoiler effect, requires a majority of votes to win, and allows votes to be rolled from a first-choice to second- and if needed later-choice candidates.

    Having the current mix of public involvement, public funding, but independent voters disenfranchised, yet only D and R candidates can emerge, with spoiler effect, combines the worst of each possibility.

    1. Scoop says:

      Dependents can franchise their vote by registering for a party, or getting other dependents to start whatever party they like.

    2. David Diano says:

      Blyden-

      “It should be possible for the result to be too candidates of the same party”

      Spoken like someone who doesn’t get it. In many places, like Philly and Montco, there are provisions to set aside seats for other parties so it’s not all one party. Montco’s 3 commissioner seats are split 2 Dem to 1 Rep (used to be 2 R to 1 D). In Philly, if an independent can beat a Republican, an Indy can capture some of the seats set aside.

      R’s and D’s mostly emerge because they have created organizations around their political philosophies to support and spread their ideas. The Independents don’t have enough in common to organize an effective political force. If they want to get elected, they should PICK THE SIDE they most agree with, and try to pull them towards the center, or help in bi-partisan compromises.

      In Delco, the @sshole Republicans changed the rules over 35 years ago to deny the guarantee of minority party representation on the 5 member county council. It’s been 5-0 (with nearly unanimous votes controlled by party bosses to enrich their friends/donors) until recently. Two Dems finally got on in 2017, but the 3 GOP still are handing out money like candy to their cohorts. If even one of the three Dems running for the remaining seats wins, the Dems take over. We might be 5 Dems to zero GOP for a while, though I think the Dems are more likely to restore minority party representation on council after a few cycles.

      But my point is that single-party rule is dangerous.

      As for RCV, I am in favor of that. We could have used it for 2016 Presidential. It is complicated to implement and educate voters, and you really need computers to do the evaluations of each round (the algorithm is a bit tricky for some cases).

  9. David Kveragas says:

    I had to pick Republican in the poll as I have a slight edge that way. However, as an Independent I vote the candidate, not the party. That is why I cannot rejoin a party, after being a Democrat then Republican. I support same sex marriage as well as drug legalization for none opioids. I also support gun rights and am pro-life with noted exceptions. So, how does someone like me choose a party? There is also the issue of my tax dollars being used to subsidize a primary in which I cannot participate. If the parties want to keep outsiders out of their nomination process then they are free to take such private and allow open primaries to whittle down the field.

    1. David Diano says:

      Given these two positions: I’m glad you are an Independent who doesn’t get to vote for nominees in Primaries.

      1) You’re a guy. You shouldn’t get a say in women’s decisions about their own bodies. Period.

      2) “Gun rights” are distorted by the NRA and fear-mongering white people about black people and/or “needing” to fight some imaginary government take-over.
      NO ONE (outside of law-enforcement) needs armor piercing bullets, assault rifles, nor a gun that hold more than 6-10 bullets. You don’t need an assault rifle to hunt deer.

      Highly populated cities should be able to set gun ordinances. There is no “hunting” in Philadelphia. Areas with high populations/density create more opportunities for gun violence, and reasonable laws about reporting stolen guns, limiting purchases/types of guns, and carry standards are reasonable.

      The 2nd amendment was about two things:
      a) a militia, since we didn’t have a formal army
      b) controlling the slave population

      Also, at the time, it was impossible to fire more than 3 rounds in a minute.

      We’d be A LOT safer if citizens didn’t have guns that could fire more than 3 rounds in a minute.

      1. Ben says:

        Wow I didn’t realize that someone with different DNA, a different heartbeat and maybe even different blood type is their body.

        I guess guys shouldn’t have a say in their children’s lives. I guess it should be up to the woman to pay for the child’s needs, take them to school and the hospital, clean their rooms, and everything else a child needs.

        Really, 2nd amendment was about controlling the slave population. That statement is really stupid. May have happened, but that is not want the 2nd amendment was about.

        1. David Diano says:

          Ben-

          They don’t have a say WHILE it’s still in the woman’s body. Period.

          Washington Post February 22, 2018:
          “The Founding Fathers were very concerned about who should, or should not, be armed.

          These restrictions on militia membership are critically important to understand. Because despite the words of the Second Amendment, 18th-century laws did infringe on Americans’ right to bear arms.

          Laws rarely allowed free blacks to have weapons. It was even rarer for African Americans living in slavery to be allowed them. In slave states, militias inspected slave quarters and confiscated weapons they found. (There were also laws against selling firearms to Native Americans, although these were more ambiguous.)

          These restrictions were no mere footnote to the gun politics of 18th-century America. White Americans were armed so that they could maintain control over nonwhites. Nonwhites were disarmed so that they would not pose a threat to white control of American society.

          The restrictions underscore a key point about militias: They were more effective as domestic police forces than they were on the battlefield against enemy nations; and they were most effective when they were policing the African American population.”

  10. David Diano says:

    F*ck no. Pick a side.

    A) White-Supremacy/Nazi/Bigotry Party (Republicans)
    or
    B) Diversity/Equality Party (Democrats)

    A) Party of Big Oil, Big Coal, Denying Climate-Change (Republicans)
    or
    B) Party of renewable energy, clean environment, fighting Climate-Change (Democrats

    A) Party that want to control women’s body and deny then right to choose (Republicans)
    or
    B) Party that defends Roe v Wade and supports women’s right to choose (Democrats)

    A) Party that can’t cut taxes enough for rich people, then doesn’t want to pay to fix infrastructure (Republicans)
    or
    B) Party that wants rich people to pay fair share of taxes so we have money to fix infrastructure (Democrats)

    How hard is it to pick a side?

    1. David Kveragas says:

      Your response is based on pure ignorance and specious stereotypes. I am an Independent and vote the candidate not the party. That is why I cannot “pick a side”!

      1. David Diano says:

        The party candidates support the party agenda/ideology. Even a win by a moderate candidate helps that party be a majority, and gain control of committees and what bills reach the floor for a vote.

    2. Ben says:

      It isn’t very hard.
      A) Party of small government and religious freedom. (republicans)

      B) Party of socialism and wants to be Venezuela (Democrats)

      1. David Diano says:

        Ben-

        The Republicans aren’t the “party of small government”. They are the party of no government oversight of business and environment. They think low taxes for the rich is worth crumbling infrastructure. They suffer from a fundamental lack of understanding of the function of government, but are happy to use the power of government to oppress the poor and minorities and impose their religious views (especially on women).

      2. Barricks Einwohner says:

        Why do some individuals always associate socialism with authoritarian regimes/ dictatorships and not with democratically elected governments in Denmark, Norway, Germany, etc., etc.

  11. Gwen Mandell says:

    To the pollsters: Why are you asking us to say which party we lean to? You are skewing your results because many independents are not going to participate in a poll that asks us which way lean (We are independent for a reason – regardless of who we decide to vote for). We should be able to vote in the primaries (Both should open theirs) without having put ourselves in this partisan box that you are trying to put us in.

  12. gulag Pittsburgh says:

    A more important reform would be to expand voting to more than 1 day. Week should be minimum time. Many other States do “early voting” and it works just fine. That way people are not penalized for working Tuesday.

    1. Jill Greene says:

      It is so difficult to vote in PA. You get one day, 14 hours, and your employer isn’t required to let you have time to vote. And if you want to vote absentee ballot? Better have a good excuse because……? Early voting and optional vote-by mail would definitely improve things.

  13. Jennifer Bullock says:

    Open the primaries to all voters. We pay for the primaries but independents are banned from participating in what is essentially the first round of elections. The two parties should not be gatekeepers of our democratic right to vote. And the poll here shows the two party bias by relating to independents as leaners towards one party or the other – I am an independent who votes for the best candidate regardless of party.

    1. David Kveragas says:

      Hear! Hear!

    2. Jill Greene says:

      Also, a lot of people don’t realize that ballot questions can appear on primary ballots, and everyone can vote for those, so when you have an entire segment of voters who are staying home because they think they can’t vote…that’s a problem.

    3. Scoop says:

      Dependents are not banned from anything. They choose to be dependents.

  14. Phyllis Goldberg says:

    No private, self-serving organization should be able to stand between any citizen and his/her Constitutional right to vote. Asking citizens to pay for elections in which they’re not allowed to participate is adding insult to injury. (It’s called taxation without representation.) We should let any citizen vote for any candidate, without regard to party, period.

    1. RTA, Esq. says:

      What constitutional requirement is there for a primary? It is only required to have elections for the ultimate office holder. Primaries are specifically so a Party can choose its candidate. Why should the government dictate how a party selects its candidate?

  15. Jenny says:

    Only reason I’m registered as Democrat is to be able to vote in the primary.
    Otherwise I would be independent.

    1. StevenTodd says:

      Me too. Open our primaries, I’ll switch back to the Indie I was in MA and CA in a minute.

Comments are closed.