Today, the Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on issues related to the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s primary elections, now being held June 2nd.
“Regardless of the challenges inherent to holding an election in the midst of a pandemic and implementing historic voting reforms all at the same time, it is essential that every eligible voter must be able to cast a ballot, regardless of zip code, proximity to public transportation, disability, or language access needs,” said Suzanne Almeida, Interim Executive Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.
In 2018, less than 4% of Pennsylvanians cast their ballot by mail. Act 77, signed into law last year, allows more convenient and secure voting, including improved access to vote-by-mail. “This new option has proved to be an incredible resource to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians during this uncertain time. While we applaud the General Assembly for making this change, further improvements can be made to ensure that all voters who want to can access vote-by-mail,” Almeida said.
She recommended changes, including: mailing every registered voter a ballot application; extending vote-by-mail deadlines; prepaying postage for both the application and the ballot; providing translations to voters who require language assistance; and increasing the amount of time each county has to canvas vote-by-mail and absentee ballots.
As counties consider consolidating polling places, she urged public input into the consolidation process; selecting sites that are easily accessible via multiple modes of transportation; and public education efforts to ensure voters know about the changes.
She also recommended protections for poll workers and additional election funding.
Read her full testimony here.