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Open Primary Bill Advances Out of Senate Government Committee

Onward with open primaries?

Yesterday, the state Senate Government Committee voted to support open primary legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scaranti (R-Jefferson), by a 9-2 vote.

SB300 aims to allow the approximate 785,000 plus unaffiliated voters to participate in the Pennsylvania primaries. Advocates for the legislation have said the bill will increase voter turnout in the primaries, while garnering “moderation” in the primary process. The AP reports that the number of independent voters have gone up 75% in the previous eight years in Pennsylvania.

State Sens. Pat Stenafo (R-Fayette) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) were the two dissenting votes in the committee. Opponents of the legislation don’t believe that this will increase voter turnout and think it encourages people from other parties to choose their party’s candidate.

While the bill received bipartisan support in the committee, some who support the legislation think that it doesn’t go far enough to spur engagement in the primary process.

PennLive reports that state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery) said she wants to offer an amendment to the bill that would open the primaries up to voters of third parties, not just unaffiliated voters.

The bill advancing with votes from both Democrats and Republicans on the committee doesn’t assure it will become law in Pennsylvania.

According to the PLSReporter, House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said earlier this year he would not consider the bill and believes the bill would open up the chances for people to “deliberately switch parties to create chaos.”

The State Senate Government Committee also approved legislation advancing other election reform bills dealing with absentee voting, straight ticket party voting, and more.

15 Responses

  1. Sheetz is correct. We have a statewide primary costing millions in taxpayer funds (closed schools, running polling stations, etc) and a large portion of taxpayers are excluded. And these 2 parties work together to keep other party, independent candidates from the ballot.

    If PA is going to continue with closed primaries, these 2 parties need to foot about 75% of the costs running the primary. (Because sometimes there are ballot questions for voters.)

  2. The Primary needs to be paid for by the establishment parties, NOT the taxpayers who are not represented by the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.

    The number of Independents has increased by 75% in recent times for a reason. That reason has to do with the fact that people do not believe that the parties represent their interests in Harrisburg, or in Washington DC.

    My suggestion is that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have their own conventions to determine who their candidates are going to be, and the state must stop forcing everyone else to pay for their process.

    In the MEAN time, their candidates can start collecting the same number of signatures to obtain ballot access as the rest of us need.

    Regardless, this bill and subsequent amendment serves to offer more legitimacy to the systematic removal of competition from the electoral process. We need MORE voices and MORE ideas in Harrisburg, because doing the same thing over and over has been unhelpful for the people earning a living here in Pennsylvania.


    Steve Scheetz

  3. If someone wants to be “independent “ that is fine. However, they should not be allowed to vote in the primaries of the political parties which by the very nature of the title says you’re a member as a Republican or Democrat. Many voters are independent thinkers however they choose to align with the political party so that they do have a say in the primary. Choosing to be Independent or No Party states clearly that you don’t want to have affiliation with either party and therefore you shouldn’t be allowed to determine who the party’s candidates will be in November .

    1. Why do the two main parties, which are private entities, directly benefit from taxpayers underwriting the elections? If the two parties want to suppress voting and keep everyone out, then they should pay for elections.

    2. False equivalence. You flunk — or should have flunked — Logic 101. I can choose to not affiliate today and to affiliate tomorrow. The law allows that.

  4. Some comments like the ‘anus’ one are clearly inappropriate and offensive. I would hope that the webmaster would be more diligent in policing this site.

  5. If there is one thing both major parties can agree on, it’s that they don’t want to share power with anyone else. Both Democrat Party and the Republican Party are PRIVATE entities, so why should they be the main beneficiaries of a closed primary, the costs of which are paid by the taxpayers? The barriers to third party candidates are significant, again because Ds and Rs want full control, and to eliminate opposition. Ds and Rs can negotiate pretty cozy mutually beneficial arrangements between themselves without pesky voters interfering. Especially voters who are not devoted to the selfish self serving purposes of the Ds and Rs. Give us open primaries and let the voters speak.

    1. Oo-rah! If they want private primaries, they should reimburse the counties and the state for the costs of holding them, or else go back to caucuses.

  6. This bill is ridiculous. Unaffiliated and third party people already have the ability to put forth their own candidates by meeting very low thresholds. This bill is not protecting voters’ rights. It’s harming the ability of third party proponents to advance their own parties past those thresholds.

  7. Pennsylvania’s closed primary system has worked pretty well. If voters want to register as Independents and are informed that it disqualifies them from voting in a party election, I see nothing wrong with it. Otherwise, Independent voters could move back and forth every primary election interfering with the whole process. If they are so inclined, they should and are currently able to change their affiliation before the primary to vote in that party’s primary. This sounds like another case of a solution in search of a problem. The legislature has better things to do with its time.

    1. I was a Kennedy Democrat in 1964 as a young adult, inspired by his idealism — until my mother told me that if I wanted her to continue to feed me and do my laundry until I moved out, I would become a Republican to support a cousin in the GOP primary which, at that time, determined the outcome of the district attorney’s race. In 2008, I switched to Democrat to vote against Hillary (for Obama) in the primary, then switched back. In 2012, ditto. In 2016, disgusted with Fatty McCheesebutt and Crooked Hillary, I switched to Libertarian. I do not recall having “interfered with the whole process.” What I do is legal. Don’t like it? Change the law or shut up. I have a right to do that. So do you.

  8. Why should independents be allowed to pick my party’s candidates? Scarneti, as usual, has his vision limited by the confines of his anus.

    1. Do you pay dues to your party? If not, it is not “your” party. You are a freeloader. Yes, I pay dues to the state and national Libertarian parties.

  9. Mr Cutler is limited and thus no surprise that he will not allow all registered voters to participate in the primaries.

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