Same-day voter registration introduced in Pennsylvania legislature

A group of Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced House Bill 13, which would allow citizens in the state to register and cast their ballots on the same day.

The state’s current voter registration deadline requires would-be voters to register 30 days in advance of the election. Voter registration deadlines constitute a barrier to entry that keeps millions of voters from casting ballots every year.

Protestors opposing Pennsylvania's now-defunct voter ID law, via Creative Common

Protestors opposing Pennsylvania’s now-defunct voter ID law, via Creative Common

The bill is being introduced now because the state’s leadership has changed. When Republicans took control of the state in 2010, the most politically-viable electoral reform proposals involved reallocating the state’s electoral votes by congressional district, which would have allowed Republican candidates to receive a minority of the popular vote while taking home 13 of the state’s 20 electoral votes. The state also passed a voter ID law so restrictive that it was later struck down in court. Since Democrat Tom Wolf beat incumbent Republican Tom Corbett by ten points in last year’s gubernatorial election, that kind of legal election-rigging won’t fly.

To be clear, House Bill 13 is still unlikely to pass. Even though the same-day voter registration bill is an incremental expansion of the franchise when compared with automatic voter registration that recently passed in Oregon and is being considered in Illinois, Republicans — who still control Pennsylvania’s House and Senate — will likely block the bill, as the voters most likely to benefit from the bill are lower-income, urban voters who lean Democratic.

However, as is the case with all expansions of the franchise, opposition to House Bill 13 will be three parts partisan and zero parts logical. Anticipating concerns over (nonexistent) voter fraud that Pennsylvania Republicans will no doubt raise , House Bill 13 sponsor Ryan Bizzarro (D – Erie), explained in the Philadelphia Inquirer that:

[Just] to be safe, H.B. 13 has extra safeguards in place to protect against fraud. Potential voters would need to bring an acceptable form of ID to register, and their ballots would be provisional until the Department of State approves their applications. I believe the scrutiny of these applications would further emphasize the “one person, one vote” principle, instead of eroding it.

Once again, you can’t even make a bad argument against same-day or automatic voter registration without being transparently partisan. You can’t claim to be a small-d democrat if you’re taking your cues from George “Regarding voting, more often means worse” Will.

Unless, of course, your idea of democracy is one in which elections produce results you favor. In that case, I’ve got a Banana Republic to pitch to you.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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7 Responses to “Same-day voter registration introduced in Pennsylvania legislature”

  1. toto says:

    To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    Instead, the National Popular Vote bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

  2. toto says:

    The bill is much more than “tinkering.”

    The bill ensures that every voter is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in
    virtually every other election in the country.

    Every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would matter in the state counts and national count.

  3. Indigo says:

    Tinkering with an antique system doesn’t help. It’s still an antique. Abolish the Electoral College, then we’re making progress.

  4. toto says:

    The National Popular Vote bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College, and the gathering of electors in each state.

    The bill just would replace current state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states).

  5. Indigo says:

    I’m good with that. The only real obstacle to making it happen is an atavistic attachment to the Electoral College. Now in horse-and-buggy days, the gathering of the Electoral College took time and was a plausible method. I guess if we mandated that all the delegates to the Electoral College make their way to the meeting by horse-and-buggy, we could maintain that venerable tradition. On the other hand, given the distances involved since the Louisiana Purchase, I’d say the Electoral College has been an unjustifiable eccentricity sine 1802. Reform is way overdue!

  6. toto says:

    Speaking of possible changes . . . .

    A survey of Pennsylvania voters showed 78% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    Support was 87% among Democrats, 68% among Republicans, and 76% among independents.

    By age, support was 77% among 18-29 year olds, 73% among 30-45 year olds, 81% among 46-65 year olds, and 78% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 85% among women and 71% among men.

    Analysts already say that only the 2016 party winner of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado,
    Iowa and New Hampshire is not a foregone conclusion. So less than a handful of states will continue to dominate and determine the presidential general election.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80%+ of the states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the
    conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states, and win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  7. Demosthenes says:

    Same day registration is an excellent way to simplify voting. While it won’t be adopted now (the GOP hates this idea), it’s good to see it percolating up.

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