Create an independent commission charged with drawing fair election districts.
For over three decades, Common Cause Pennsylvania (CCPA) and other organizations have fought for true reform to help rebuild public trust in government.
During the 2017-18 legislative session in Pennsylvania, CCPA and its allies joined efforts with key legislators to make a giant step toward ending partisan gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. Groups crafted legislation in the form of a constitutional amendment to fix the process of drawing legislative maps.
This legislation, known as S.B. 22 and H.B. 722, created an independent citizens commission to perform the map drawing process. These bills were widely supported by legislators and citizens, however neither one reached voting approval by both chambers of legislature by the close of the session.
Two recent polls have indicated that over 70% over Pennsylvania voters are favorable toward allowing voters to choose their representatives than representatives choosing their voters. This idea of citizens commissions is growing rapidly around the country with more than 17 states creating a commission or alternative way of map drawing other than by the hands of elected officials.
As we move forward on democracy reform in Pennsylvania, redistricting remains the top objective for good government organizations, grassroots movements and everyday citizens.
Automatically register citizens of Pennsylvania to vote as soon as they turn 18 years old.
Registering citizens to vote remains a key and critical component in the fight for democracy, and legislation establishing automatic voter registration would remove barriers to voting and promote participation among young people.
CCPA believes this begins with the ease of registering to vote. This could come about in a number of ways: allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote; allowing people who will be 18 years old for the general election to register and vote in the primary; building an apparatus that can automatically register citizens upon securing employment or making a purchase of a house or vehicle, when the necessary documentation is already being filed with the state; and/or creating a system that automatically registers citizens of the state on their eighteenth birthday.
We should have a database system which would automatically register that person to vote.
Reform the absentee ballot process to no longer require an excuse in order to be able to vote remotely.
Currently, in order to request and receive an absentee ballot—a ballot that does not have to be filled out in the polling place where a person usually lives — a voter in Pennsylvania needs to have a valid reason or excuse for why they could not go to the polling place.
These reasons include traveling for business, being away as a student, or illness, but they do not include having a job that would making voting prohibitively inconvenient, living far away from a polling place, or being incarcerated in a penal institution.
Having no-excuse absentee ballots makes voting more convenient and would help involve more people in the election process, as well as decreasing lines at the polls—making the process better even for voters who do not choose to request an absentee ballot.
By agreeing to endorse no-excuse absentee ballots for all elections, the candidate is agreeing to support legislation like H.B. 1465, which includes language making sure that “No qualified elector who submits an application for an absentee ballot may be required to state the reason for the absentee ballot.”
Allow registered voters who are neither Democrats nor Republicans to vote in primary elections.
The right to vote is a core element to our democracy.
Our elections are often analyzed and their viability of success is determined by voter turnout. Pennsylvania is faced with the struggle of simultaneously protecting and expanding voting opportunities.
Some states have found success in voter turnout percentages through holding open primaries. Presently, Pennsylvania holds closed primaries which excludes registered nonaffiliated voters from participation. It is obvious this impacts overall turnout but more fundamentally is against the idea in the power of a single vote or voter. Some advocates have viewed the closed primary system as a form of voter suppression.
CCPA is advocating for legislation that will allow nonaffiliated registered voters the opportunity to vote in the primary. Primary and general elections are funded by the tax dollars of Pennsylvania residents, therefore all Pennsylvania residents should be afforded the opportunity to vote.
Our advocacy for open primaries would simply allow nonaffiliated registered voters to choose between one of the major party candidates for the various offices on the primary ballot. In addition, we know that our commonwealth, counties and local municipalities also place ballot questions for consideration during the primary, therefore even more reason for all voters to gain access to the polling machine during the primary.
Ban public officials from receiving or accepting gifts from people or organizations that are seeking government business.
A ban on gifts to public officials and employees would make it more difficult for money to corrupt the political process.
Pennsylvania is one of 10 states with no limits on the amount or size of gifts—meals at expensive restaurants, trips to exotic places, etc.—that elected officials can accept from entities seeking government business, like getting a contract, grant, or loan. These gifts give people undue access to public officials and employees and have the potential to change how they act through what is essentially a bribe.
By agreeing to endorse a gift ban, the candidate is agreeing to support legislation like H.B. 39, which would prevent public officials and employees from “soliciting or accepting … any transportation, lodging or hospitality or anything of economic value” from someone with an economic interest in the work of that public official, employee, or the legislature. This would go beyond Gov. Wolf’s proposal of a gift ban for elected officials to include state employees, as well.
Fully fund and improve Pennsylvania’s critical election infrastructure to protect the sanctity of the vote for all voters.
Pennsylvania is beginning to take seriously the possible threats to election security posed by ever-more-sophisticated cyberthreats and making strides in improving its aging election infrastructure by requiring votes to have paper voting receipts for easier and more secure audits.
But the state has not invested enough money to help local communities without the resources to buy new machines, and so candidates who endorse the election security question are committing to trying to provide state funds in order to make sure that the machines used so that future elections can continue to be free from tampering.