According to a 2020 report to the general assembly of Pennsylvania regarding the Administration of Voter Registration, more than 1.3 million voters were registered as independent or unaffiliated. Therefore, over a million people did not have the opportunity to vote in the primary elections that year, because Pennsylvania is one of only 11 states that do not allow independent or unaffiliated registrants to vote in state primary elections.
Pennsylvania Senator Dan Laughlin introduced Senate Bill (“SB”) 690 in May 2021. As it is currently written, SB 690 would change the rule for future elections to allow for open primaries in the state. In other words, it would allow registered independent or unaffiliated voters to participate in state primaries. Like many other states which allow for unaffiliated voters to vote during the primary election, the voter would only be able to vote on one party ticket, meaning voters would have to choose which primary they would like to participate in. Voters already registered Democrat or Republican would see no change; they would still only be permitted to vote for their respective party in the primary. Another benefit to SB 690 is that increasing the number of eligible voters in a primary could result in higher voter turnout.
The primary sponsor of the bill is Republican, but this bill has bipartisan support and, despite being a duplicate bill from the 2020/2021 legislative session which failed to pass, this version could still move in the General Assembly.
The Center for Coalfield justice will be watching the movement of this bill and keeping community members up to date with any new information. If you’d like to know more, please reach out to our Field Program Coordinator Paul Fedore at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 724-229-3550 Ext. 8.