Closed primaries have been used in the Commonwealth for generations. But our politics have changed; our communities have changed; our voters have changed. So should our elections.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, nearly 1.3 million voters are registered as unaffiliated with a political party or with a third party. This segment of the state’s electorate has been increasing for years, consistent with a national trend of voters identifying as independents. But in Pennsylvania, these voters are prevented from participating in the local, state and federal primaries that are likely the most important elections in their communities.
From local council or commissioner to the U.S. presidency, more than one out of every seven registered voters are barred from having a say in a critical part of the electoral process. This occurs despite the fact that primaries, which cost ~$20 million each spring, are funded with tax dollars from every Pennsylvanian regardless of their political affiliation.
This system guarantees that fewer voters participate, elections are less competitive and, ultimately, political polarization is reinforced, contributing to legislative gridlock and hampering good governance.
New legislation introduced in PA General Assembly would allow the nearly 900,000 independent and unaffiliated voters shut out of primary elections in Pennsylvania to choose a Democratic or Republican ballot. We support this legislation and urge members of both parties to sign on.
However, there are numerous other election systems to consider, and we encourage an informed debate around which would best serve the voters and the Commonwealth.