Early Voting Legislation Proposed

County executives from Lehigh and Northampton Counties, and spokespersons from AARP, NAACP, Common Cause, the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches were among those who attended a press conference on March 14 2013 at the Lehigh County Government Center to support HB 548, a bill being introduced by State Representative Michael Schlossberg of Allentown. The bill provides for early voting in Pennsylvania's elections.  

Marita Green, Voter Services Coordinator of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, made the following comments:

We are pleased to be here today to express the Leagues support for early voting. We believe this is one of several essential reforms to make participation in voting more accessible to all eligible voters in Pennsylvania. ln fact, thirty-two states, plus the District of Columbia, provide for some form of in-person early voting. House Bill 548 provides a way for a voter to cast a ballot at a designated polling place without having to offer an excuse for why they cannot vote on "Election Day."

Early voting is consistent with LWVPAs long held position that voting hours should be extended. Early voting fits in with modern life styles. Today we have long commutes, travel plans, job responsibilities, and even election related duties that often make it difficult to vote in person on the day of an election. Early voting can potentially increase overall participation in voting. lt is also a way to identify and correct problems before it is too late. For example, problems with registration or showing up to vote at the wrong polling place can prevent a voter from casting a regular ballot on Election Day.

The League also supports "no excuse necessary" absentee voting. ln fact, this is another form of early voting. However, providing for no excuse absentee voting would probably require amending the PA Constitution. Early voting, on the other hand, accomplishes much the same objective and does not require the lengthy process needed for a Constitutional amendment.

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania supports an early voting system and proposals for its consideration. However, before such a system can be implemented there are several key issues that need to be addressed.

First, we must make sure the system is uniformly administered across the Commonwealth. lt cannot work one way in Pittsburgh and another way in Allentown.

Second, the issue of additional costs must be addressed. Such costs should be the responsibility of the state and not individual counties like Lehigh.

Third, adequate staffing is needed to operate the polls. Right now it is often difficult to recruit poll workers for one day much less nine. The League supports moving to a system of appointing poll workers rather than the current system of electing judges and majority and minority inspectors who are then responsible for recruiting other workers.

And finally, the security of voting equipment is essential during times when polling stations are closed.

ln conclusion, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania applauds Representative Schlossberg and others for their efforts to provide for early voting across our Commonwealth. We believe that these efforts, if implemented properly, will help allow greater accessible for eligible voters to exercise our most precious right voting.

*     *     *