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Open Primaries PA to Press for Independents’ Right to Vote

April 29, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                

Contacts: Micah Sims
Common Cause, Executive Director
msims@commoncause.org; 412-520-5115 c

David Thornburgh
Committee of Seventy, President and CEO
dthornburgh@seventy.org; 215-439-0879 c

OPEN PRIMARIES PA TO PRESS FOR INDEPENDENTS’ RIGHT TO VOTE
New Coalition Supports Opening Pennsylvania’s Primaries

HARRISBURG, PA – A new statewide coalition -- Open Primaries PA -- launched today with the mission of opening Pennsylvania’s primary process to include independent voters across the Commonwealth. As of November 2018, more than 1.2 million Pennsylvania Voters were registered as unaffiliated with a political party or with a third party, and all are shut out of important spring nomination contests.

In many parts of the state, primary elections are decisive, with winners virtually guaranteed to win the November general election and enter public office. This means more than one out of every eight registered Pennsylvanian voters are barred from having a say in a critical part of the electoral process on offices from township council to the U.S. presidency.

This disenfranchisement occurs despite the fact that primary elections, 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 participateelections are less competitive and, ultimately, political polarization is reinforced, contributing to legislative gridlock and hampering good governance.

The founding members of the Open Primaries PA -- Committee of SeventyCommon Cause PACommonwealth CommonsenseIndependent Pennsylvanians and Philly Set Go -- established this new coalition on the principles of:

  • Fairness in representation: More than one million Pennsylvanians are shut out of primary elections that often determine who represents them.

  • Accountability in elections: Public officials should be accountable to the electorate at large, not party bases.

  • No taxation without representation: Primary elections are funded with tax dollars from every Pennsylvanian regardless of whether they can participate.

The coalition welcomes a vigorous public discussion around the need to change the status quo, starting with Senate Bill 300, introduced by Senator Joe Scarnati. The proposal would allow an unaffiliated voter to choose a primary -- Democratic or Republican -- in which they could vote for candidates. Major party voters, however, would continue to vote only within their party primary. Senate Bill 300 will be taken up in the Senate State Government Committee chaired by Senators Mike Folmer and Anthony Williams on Tuesday, April 30, at 10:00 a.m. along with a slate of other election reform legislation. Jeremy Gruber, Senior Vice President for Open Primaries, a nationwide advocate for primary reform, will be testifying in support of SB 300.

Learn more about the new Open Primaries PA coalition and why Pennsylvania’s closed primary system must change at OpenPrimariesPA.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Open Primaries PA is growing a coalition of civic and business organizations committed to open and free elections in Pennsylvania that lead to responsive and accountable government.