The Fight Is Not Over, Common Cause Pennsylvania Will Continue to Move Election Reform Forward

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  • Micah Sims Executive Director, Common Cause Pennsylvania Ph: o: 412-520-5115

(Harrisburg, PA) – On Friday, June 28th the Pennsylvania legislative assembly adjourned for the final time until September. Within the last few weeks, we have seen several attempts, in both chambers, to reform Pennsylvania’s outdated election laws. Unfortunately, most of those reforms have been tabled until the legislature returns this fall.

We are encouraged by progress being made, particularly with Senate Bill 300. The State Senate approved with overwhelming bipartisan support a landmark bill from Senator Scarnati that would allow 785,000 independent Pennsylvanians to vote in spring primary elections, a significant step forward in moving away from the Commonwealth’s closed primary system. The proposal amends state election law to allow unaffiliated voters to choose a party primary — Democratic or Republican — in which they could vote for candidates.

While this is a notable achievement for the Senate, the General Assembly has left Pennsylvanians waiting for reform yet again. The inaction on the part of the General Assembly to move any substantial bills on redistricting, absentee ballot reform, and more is unfortunate.

While the General Assembly did pass Senate Bill 48, it was not without its problems “We deserve a democracy that seeks voter engagement, not voter suppression, ”said Micah Sims, Executive Director of Common Cause PA. “We believe that some legislative portions of SB48 fell short in essential areas such as research, citizen input and debate. Voting resides at the core of our democracy and should be taken seriously by all constituents and individuals elected to represent those constituents,” added Sims. “We are asking both chambers of the legislature to resume the fight this fall on fixing our absentee ballot deadlines, optional voting by mail, and establishing automatic voter registration.”

One of the positive attributes within SB48 was funding provided for voting machines. “This funding is essential in helping to ensure secure and accurate elections here in Pennsylvania. Common Cause PA, along with several key coalition partners, worked diligently and tirelessly throughout the legislative session to gain support from legislators, stakeholders and citizens, imploring them on the monumental importance of acquiring new machines for our future elections,” Sims said.

“This week, Governor Tom Wolf has initiated a plan, issuing bonds for $90 million dollars, to fulfill his commitment in the purchasing of new voting machines for our sixty-seven counties. This instrumental investment in voting modernization will help improve voter confidence and engagement throughout the commonwealth on every election day. We are soliciting support from legislators, county commissioners, election administrators and stakeholders in order to move voting modernization and secure elections forward in Pennsylvania.”

Census funding, however, was left on the floor. This absence of funding is even more glaring following the Supreme Court’s ruling last week. We have received a ruling from the Supreme Court on the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court ruled that the citizenship question cannot, for now, be added to the 2020 Census.

We must all stand up for the representation and resources our communities deserve by participating in the 2020 Census. Getting the next census count right is critical to making sure our government works for everyone — it will shape our nation’s democracy, public policy and economy for the next decade. Analysis, shared by the PA 2020 Census Complete Counts Commission, indicates that Pennsylvania would lose almost $2,100 a year for each person who isn’t counted.

Meaningful redistricting reform was also left on the table at the end of this session. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in two landmark redistricting cases, Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek. In a 72-page decision written by Justice Roberts, the majority concluded it could not set a constitutional standard against partisan gerrymandering. This isn’t the end for redistricting reform in Pennsylvania, in fact, it’s the beginning. Common Cause PA will continue our fight to create an independent redistricting commission to draw our state and congressional lines, hold lawmakers accountable for their role in the redistricting process, and organize our grassroots partners to ensure that every voice is heard and every voice counts here in the Commonwealth.

Common Cause Pennsylvania is committed to continuing conversations with the General Assembly and our partners in an attempt to find pathways forward democracy. Common Cause believes that every person counts and will continue our efforts to inform, educate, and encourage groups, organizations, faith communities, businesses, and everyday people to participate in achieving meaningful reform.

This summer we will reach out to more state, county, local and community organizations to improve the effort for issues such as redistricting, voting modernization, census and more. People want to trust government, but government must exhibit actions and attitudes that they want to be trusted. Join us in the fight and follow our conversations moving forward, visit


Common Cause Pennsylvania is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with 36,000 members and followers working to create a more accountable, responsive, and transparent democracy in Pennsylvania. We are focused on fair elections and the fight against gerrymandering, as well as money in politics, voting rights, and other good government reforms. We are part of Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit democracy organization with over 1.2 million supporters and local organizations in 35 states.