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Will Pa. Ever See Open Primaries?

By Judith Ayers, Contributing Writer 

The growing transition of voters, according to Eugene DePasquale (D-York), toward third parties “began with Watergate and has been picking up steam ever since.”

“Most people don’t easily identify themselves and sit in one box. Both parties have disappointed the majority at one point in time,” which is one major reason why DePasquale is pushing recent ballot access legislation.

Instead of using the two-party system to benefit him Representative Depasquale disclosed how he saw it as encouraging the “marketplace of ideas” through ballot access measures [the end to this sentence doesn’t really make sense… please make clearer’. This would enforce and encourage a competitive democracy he said.

Though Depasquale stated he has not yet faced opposition from any single group,“the current two-party structure is against the reforms”

The big message that DePasquale wanted to express is that regardless of party or affiliation “the ‘minor candidates’ should be part of the debate.”

Independents are joining third parties in pressing Pennsylvania’s closed primary system. On the forefront of this growing movement is State Rep. Eugene DePasquale’s introduction of of a four-bill reform package, known as the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA).

According to the news release the first bill would allow voters registered as independents to cast ballots in Pennsylvania’s primary elections. The second bill would require corporations to obtain shareholder approval before contributing an annual aggregate sum exceeding $10,000.

The third piece of legislation allows all voters to cast ballots up to 15 days in advance of Election Day in both the primary and general elections.The fourth and final bill in the package would make general election competition among all parties a reality by equalizing the ability of Independent and third-party candidates to run for public office in Pennsylvania.

The VCA challenges the two-party system in two main areas. One through legislation and secondly through the non-partisan grassroots movement to open up the primary system in Pa. Groups and political parties alike have joined the PA Ballot Access Coalition. The supporters of open primaries have banded together excluding partianship, aiming for one goal, free elections.

PoliticsPA spoke with Barry Kauffman of Common Cause about their efforts to clean up Pennsylvania’s elections. Common Cause has been working for over a decade to improve and open up the election process here.

Some of Common Cause’s problems with the current system include: electronic voting machines do not produce a voter verified paper ballot, making it impossible to verify the accuracy of the vote counts; far too many election sites are inaccessible to disabled voters or the elderly; voter registration processes and election day identification requirements  can disenfranchise legitimate potential voters; state laws unduly restrict access to the ballot for minor party and independent candidates.

However, Kauffman is hopeful for the efforts and strides being made in ballot access.

“Since the Ralph Nader situation in Pennsylvania there has been elevated interest. Minor and third parties have gotten their acts together, unified and started lobbying.”

Kauffman says that while there has been a rise in recent years of Independent and minor party registration. The ballot requirements for them are still unfair and biased “just not fair, just not the correct way to do things”

While Common Cause focuses on electoral reform and DePasquale focuses on independent voters, the common thread that is that the now narrow view of elections and parties dramatically hurt democracy here in Pennsylvania. Both issues are essential to revitalizing the competitive marketplace of ideas, in order to have better elections. We won’t continue to have a free and open democracy, they argue, until we get free and open elections in Pennsylvania.

6 Responses

  1. it is time for Pennsylvania to change the law on closed primaries, Senator Teplitz (D-15)is sponsoring a bill now SB192 to allow open primaries in PA, I urge every independent/unaffiliated registered voter to contact their senate representative and ask them to support Senator Teplitz Bill. Thank you.

  2. I think it is time to bypass our leaders in Government. And take things in our hands. The Politicians will never do anything about this it is not in there best interest .We need to get a referendum on the ballot to change is the only thing that we the people have as a safeguard in the constitution to stop runaway Government. WE THE PEOPLE CAN CHANGE THINGS IF WE STAND TOGEATHER .

  3. This is also true for Independents who want to run on a ballot for lower positions like their local School Board. Where either Republicans or Democrats can be listed on BOTH sides of the ballot, the Independents are forced to be ONLY write-ins. This is a crazy law and needs to be changed.

  4. It is a federal crime to disallow any citizen their right to vote, yet the governmant of Pa allows the Demcratic and the Republican parties to dictate participation in every primary election. As a nonaffiliated voter, I must either be unlawfully excluded or disregard my priciples and restate my affiliation. Also, when you reffer to nonpartisan voters as ‘independent’ that infers that they are members of the Independent party.

  5. Scott, why sound 1/8 of the registered voters not be allowed to participate in the primaries. Why are they forced to pay for the Primaries that they themselves can not participate in.

    I understand what you are saying. Republicans should pick the Republican Nominee. Democrats should be able to pick the Democrat Nominee. But why should the tax payers foot the bill for party politics. Each Party should fund there own ways for nominating there party candidates.

  6. If you wont join a party than you shouldn’t be picking the nominee. Why should a independent be aloud to pick the GOP candidate? Why should a Republican be able to vote in a democratic primary.? If you want to vote in the primary register with a party. If not shut up and vote in the general.

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