I’m pleased to join with Senate colleagues to propose bipartisan election changes — beginning with three state constitutional amendments: Absentee ballots, poll workers and judicial retention elections.

Under Pennsylvania’s Constitution, voters wanting absentee ballots are restricted to when their work takes them outside their county, an illness or disability, or observance of a religious holiday.

By amending Pennsylvania’s Constitution, we can empower voters to request and submit absentee ballots for any reason — allowing them to vote early and by mail.

We’d also like to address other absentee ballot issues, including eliminating public postings of approved absentee voters’ names, mailing absentee ballots earlier and giving voters more time to return absentee ballots.

We should also establish that voters could make written requests to be placed on a county Permanent Early Voting List — with procedures to remove inactive voters. Once a voter opts in they would automatically receive absentee ballots.

During Pennsylvania’s 1968 Constitutional Convention, there were apparently concerns with poll workers. The existing constitution excludes federal, state, county or municipal employees. We can expand the number of volunteer poll workers through a constitutional amendment that eliminates these restrictions.

Pennsylvania’s existing constitution also has an anomaly that causes confusion and needless costs, requiring a separate ballot or column for the retention of justices, judges and justices of the peace. Another constitutional amendment would eliminate this problem.

Counties must secure polls, comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, get voting machines delivered on time and ready to use and find volunteers for polls. These challenges are compounded in precincts with less than 250 voters. We should give counties the option to consolidate small precincts and also add another option to mail ballots in undersized districts. Ballots would be automatically mailed like absentee ballots and voters would return them without going to a poll.

Current Pennsylvania election law also requires counties to have ballots for 110 percent of the total number of registered voters for each polling place. We can trim these needless costs by reducing the requirement to 10 percent of the highest number of ballots cast in the previous three primary or general elections in each individual election district.

Write-in candidates are an American phenomenon. A person not on the ballot is elected by voters who write in his or her name. However, there are unintended consequences. For example, someone writes in a name regardless of interest or qualifications and that other person is elected by just one write-in vote. Write-in candidates should receive the same number of votes as would be required if they had filed nomination petitions. For example, if 10 petition signatures are required, a write-in candidate should need to receive a minimum of 10 identical write-in votes to be elected to that office.

We should also give counties the option to establish “vote centers” — alternatives to traditional, neighborhood polls. Voters would be allowed to cast votes at any county vote center, regardless of their home address. Studies have shown vote centers may increase voter turnout while cutting costs.

We should also consider “curbside voting.” If a voter cannot physically enter a poll, he or she may ask an election officer bring a ballot to the entrance or curb. There they would be read the ballot (unless otherwise requested by the voter). However, it would be illegal to try to influence a voter, mark the ballot any other way than requested or tell how someone voted.

As chair of the Senate State Government Committee, I look forward to deliberating these and other proposed election changes in the weeks and months ahead.

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48)

Harrisburg

(1) comment

Schreff

One of the most if not the most important right we have is the right to choose our elected officials. Yes, it should be the right of all citizens to vote for the candidate of their choice but also it should be 100% perfectly clear that these voters are legal citizens and not illegals. It is my opinion that perhaps millions of votes were caste in the last presidential election in states like CA, IL, OR, WA and others. Why? Please remember how the sanctuary cities and states were begging illegal immigrants to vote? And remember that when President Trump attempted to have his voter commission audit this that California and other states refused to allow the Commission to complete the job.

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