March 27, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: David Thornburgh
Committee of Seventy, President and CEO
GENERAL ASSEMBLY MOVES PRIMARY TO JUNE 2
Bill passed to protect election, but 1.2 million voters still shut out
HARRISBURG, PA - As a coalition of reform organizations, Open Primaries PA stands for a simple truth: the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. That is why we applaud the Pennsylvania General Assembly for moving quickly and in a bipartisan manner to recognize the threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the right to vote in Pennsylvania. The sweeping changes contained in SB 422 address how our state's primary elections will be held and ensure that Pennsylvania voters have the opportunity to effectively exercise this important franchise.
As a result of the current crisis, many Pennsylvanians, for the first time, have been confronted with what it means to have their right to vote threatened. It is a deeply unsettling feeling. As citizens, the act of voting is a crucial way we communicate with and guide our elected representatives.
As the General Assembly decisively addresses the threats of the moment, we cannot forget that these challenges are felt by independent voters every election season.
More than 1.2 million registered independent voters in Pennsylvania are denied the fundamental right to vote in each and every primary election. This staggering figure exceeds the total number of voters in the entire state of Delaware.
Pennsylvania is one of only twelve states that have stripped away the right to vote from proud, hardworking, civic-minded Pennsylvanians. By passing SB 422, and moving the primary to June 2, our General Assembly in essence said, "we want to enable as many Pennsylvanians to vote as possible."
In this same spirit, it's time to walk the walk and allow all registered voters to vote in all elections, including primary elections.
Primary elections are taxpayer-funded and government run. They are often more competitive and therefore more meaningful than the general election, as leading candidates are chosen and political platforms are developed. Every Commonwealth voter - Republican, Democrat, and independent - should have the right to participate in them. The strength of our democracy rests on offering every voter that right.
Albert Einstein famously stated that the crisis is the greatest blessing for people and nations, because the crisis brings progress. Creativity comes from anxiety as the day comes from the dark night. The crisis allows for inventiveness, discoveries, and great strategies.
As we continue to address this current crisis, and ask how we can make voting this election season accessible, safe, and accurate, we must also begin to ask, "What about those of us who can't vote at all?" It is incumbent upon us all to address that critical question in the months to come.
Open Primaries PA is a growing coalition of civic and business organizations committed to open and free elections in Pennsylvania that lead to responsive and accountable government. Learn more about the new coalition and why Pennsylvania's closed primary system must change at OpenPrimariesPA.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.