In the age of Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, Pennsylvania is stuck in the past century when it comes to voter registration. Prospective voters can download the necessary form online, but can’t submit it digitally. Instead, they have to mail it or personally deliver it to their county voter registration office. That’s among the voting procedures some members of the General Assembly want to change. It’s early in the new legislative session, but several proposals to modernize voting protocol are already circulating among state lawmakers. One piece of legislation would provide for electronic voter registration and another would allow citizens to register the same day as an election and then vote, which proponents say could increase turnout. “In this day and age, I do truly believe that we should be doing everything we can to make voting easier and as accessible as possible to all eligible voters,” said state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York, who has joined state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, in sponsoring same-day registration legislation.
While not related to registration, a third proposal would allow early voting beginning 30 days before a primary or general election. Pennsylvanians can already vote via absentee ballot, but must meet certain criteria to do so.
Voters with long commutes and hectic schedules could benefit from the flexibility of early voting, said Elizabeth Randol, vice chairwoman of issues for the reform group Common Cause Pennsylvania. Perhaps that could improve dismal voter turnout, too, she said. “This wouldn’t be a magic wand, but I think it would encourage opportunity for people that would have schedule conflicts,” Randol said.
The lack of early voting options and electronic registration was included in an October report from Common Cause that found Pennsylvania has made improvements to voting procedures, but still has work to do in implementing recommendations from a report made by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.