Will Pa. Ever See Open Primaries?
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.