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Public Hearing Set to Allow Independents to Vote in PA Primaries

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

Aug 15, 2022

Opening up Pennsylvania’s primary elections to voters who aren’t registered either as Democrats or Republicans is the topic of a State House of Representatives hearing tomorrow.

The House State Government Committee convenes Tuesday to hear testimony on House Bill 1369. Sponsored by state Rep. Chris Quinn – R-Middletown Township – it would allow the almost 1.3 million Pennsylvanians not affiliated with the major political parties to vote in the primaries.

David Thornburgh, chair of Ballot PA – a project of the Committee of Seventy – said it’s a historic occasion that a bill to end “closed” primaries is even getting a hearing in the House.

“This is a chance for advocates – like myself – of the idea,” said Thornburgh, “to share our thoughts and our research and our polling and what we’ve learned about this issue with members of the House State Government Committee.”

More than 8.7 million Pennsylvanians are registered to vote.

Backers of keeping primaries closed say the political parties have the right to allow only their members to participate. But opponents say they produce candidates that are more loyal to their parties than their constituents.

Thornburgh pointed out that Pennsylvania is one of only nine states that excludes independent voters from primary elections. He said most recently, Maine and Colorado adopted these changes to open their primaries.

He added that if HB 1369 passes, it would make way for unaffiliated and independent voters by next year’s elections.

“Our hope is that we could get this bill passed this fall, by the end of November,” said Thornburgh, “that it would be implemented in the primaries of 2023 – so, next spring’s primaries – in which case this would affect the 2024 presidential election.”

As it stands now, independent voters in Pennsylvania can only cast primary ballots for state constitutional amendments, local initiatives, or referendums. HB 1369 has cosponsors from both major parties, but still faces votes in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Abrir las elecciones primarias de Pensilvania a votantes que no estan registrados como democratas o republicanos es el tema de una audiencia en la Camara manana. El Comite de Gobierno Estatal de la Camara de Representantes se reune el martes para escuchar testimonios sobre el Proyecto de Ley 1369 de la Camara de Representantes. Patrocinado por el representante Chris Quinn, un republicano del condado de Delaware, permitiria que casi 1.3 millones de residentes de Pensilvania que no estan afiliados a los principales partidos politicos voten en las primarias. David Thornburgh, del grupo Ballot PA, dice que es una ocasion historica que un proyecto de ley para poner fin a las primarias “cerradas,” incluso este recibiendo una audiencia en la Camara.

“Esta es una oportunidad para los defensores, como yo, de la idea de compartir nuestros pensamientos, nuestra investigacion, nuestras encuestas y lo que hemos aprendido sobre este tema con los miembros del Comite de Gobierno Estatal de la Camara”. anadio Thornburgh.

Mas de 8.7 millones de residentes de Pensilvania estan registrados para votar. Los partidarios de mantener las primarias cerradas dicen que los partidos politicos tienen derecho a permitir que solo participen sus miembros. Pero los opositores dicen que producen candidatos que son mas leales a sus partidos, que a sus electores.

Thornburgh senala que Pensilvania es uno de los nueve estados que excluye a los votantes independientes de las elecciones primarias. Explica que mas recientemente, Maine y Colorado adoptaron estos cambios para abrir sus elecciones primarias. Agrega que si se aprueba el proyecto HB 1369, daria paso a votantes no afiliados e independientes para las elecciones del proximo ano.

“Nuestra esperanza es que podamos aprobar este proyecto de ley este otono, a fines de noviembre; que se implementaria en las primarias de 2023, es decir, las primarias de la proxima primavera, en cuyo caso esto afectaria las elecciones presidenciales de 2024”, comento tambien el entrevistado.

Tal como esta ahora, los votantes independientes en Pensilvania solo pueden emitir votos primarios para enmiendas constitucionales estatales e iniciativas locales o referendums. HB 1369 tiene copatrocinadores de los dos partidos principales, pero aun enfrenta votos en ambas camaras de la Asamblea General.

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