Now There’s No Excuse Not to Vote
With a bill passed late last year, voting in PA is suddenly a whole lot easier. No lines, no pollworkers hawking candidate flyers, no loss of work or family time to get to your polling place – you can now cast ballots by mail. That’s right – the most critical, important civic responsibility is now as simple as dropping a ballot in the mail.
On October 31, 2019, a voter reform bill was signed into law – an update to our election code that was eighty-two years in the making.
Instead of a tight and sometimes impossible 13-hour window to vote, voters can now cast a ballot as early as 50 days before election day. This fact alone should help to greatly expand the electorate and provide voters the opportunity to thoughtfully cast a ballot at their convenience. All citizens who are eligible to vote can request a mail-in ballot. These ballots will then be sent automatically to citizens for every election thereafter, if the voter so chooses.
The link to apply for the mail-in ballot is: votespa. com/Voting-in-PA If you prefer, my office has these forms available and we can provide a paper application for you. Please contact my office at 215-482-8726.
Hopefully this new measure reverses a voter turnout trend that has hit historical lows in recent years. For a presidential election, turnout is somewhat higher, but not what it should be. For example, the turnout in May 2019 was 23%. That primary election was for the office of mayor, city council, the row offices of sheriff and the register of wills, city commissioners and superior, common pleas and municipal judges. And that paltry 23%? It was 23% of registered voters (not eligible voters)!
To help facilitate voting, the new law changed the registration deadline to 15 days before election day; previously it was 30 days. This added time gives citizens two extra weeks to change their registration if they have moved or have not registered previously.
Many folks do not focus on an upcoming election until closer to the date. Previously, it was too late to register if one realized that election day was 30 days away. I encourage all citizens to check their voter status at pavoterservices.pa.gov (click “Find Voter Registration Status”)
Other reforms include the elimination of straight-ticket voting. A voter will no longer be able to make a unilateral decision to vote for all candidates on the ballot of one party. Personally, I believe this is helpful to citizens as voters will be more aware of all the positions that are up for election and the importance of considering candidates based on their merits; not just candidates a political party is advocating.
Pennsylvania is late to the game for mail-in voting, which is a type of early voting. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia offer some form of early voting. Four of these states, Oregon (2000), Washington (2011), Colorado (2013) and Hawaii (2019) hold all elections entirely by mail.
Hopefully, additional voting reforms will continue to be considered in Pennsylvania. Same day voter registration and open primaries are two that come immediately to mind. Both reforms would continue to expand the electorate. Please let me know your thoughts and questions on mail-in ballots, and the possibility of open primaries and same day voter registration.
As always, I can be reached at RepDeLissio@ pahouse.net or 215-482-8726. Or stop by the office or attend one of my town hall meetings. My 93rd town hall will take place on Monday, March 30th, at 7PM, location TBD.
Mark Your Calendar
Important Dates (Note that the primary was delayed to Tuesday, June 2 because of COVID restrictions)
- Monday, April 13. First day for mail-in voting.
- Monday, May 18. Last day to register before the primary election (15 days prior)
- Tuesday, May 26. Last day to apply for a mail-in ballot (no excuse necessary) or civilian absentee ballot.
- Tuesday, June 2. Primary Election Day. Polls are open 7AM – 8PM.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Concerns? Make your voice heard by visiting my office at 6511 Ridge Avenue (walk-ins always welcome), calling (215) 482-8726, or visiting pahouse.com/DeLissio.