The General Assembly last week passed a reform bill that would eliminate straight-party voting as a ballot option.

Straight-party voting

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Gov. Tom Wolf signed the legislation on Thursday. In July, he vetoed similar legislation that attempted to eliminate straight-party voting without including many of the other reforms included in Senate Bill 421, like creating a 50-day period for people to vote by mail before the election and reducing the amount of time between the election and the deadlines to register to vote or apply for absentee ballots.

“This is a major advancement for elections in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. 

The measure passed the House by a vote of 138-61. A few hours later it passed the state Senate by a vote of 35-14.

Proponents of the change said Pennsylvania was one of only eight states that have single-party voting as an option on the ballot.

“Straight-party voting is an antiquated practice that works to encourage voters to blindly choose a blank box at the top of a ballot,” said House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster. “The vast majority of states removed straight-party voting years ago, believing the electorate has the right to choose people over party, and let their personal beliefs lead them in the voting booth, not just a one-party box.”

Democratic lawmakers had complained the eliminating straight-party voting on the ballots could lead to lines in busy polling places. 

The move seems like an effort by Republicans to “tilt the odds to their advantage in 2020,” said Ray Murphy, state coordinator for Keystone Votes, a coalition of 41 advocacy and community organizations working to update Pennsylvania’s election system. “The elimination of straight-ticket party voting, however, is a serious problem.”

Do you think lawmakers made the right decision to eliminate the straight-ticket voting option?

Tell us what you think by sending a Sound-Off and by voting at meadvilletribune.com.

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