Voter ID was just the beginning. A trio of bills aimed at overhauling access to the ballot box in Pennsylvania will get a hearing on Thursday, when the Senate Democratic Policy Committee meets in the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown, at 10 a.m. The bills would allow voters to cast ballots up to 15 days before Election Day; vote absentee without giving an excuse; and register on the same day as voting. “It reflects modern life much better than the current situation does,” said Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks County, who sponsored the absentee ballot bill in part because, in 2009, she missed her chance to vote because she was unexpectedly out of town on business.
The effects of laws such as these vary, according to a Tribune-Review examination of data from George Mason University’s United States Elections Project and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In the 2012 election, 58.2 percent of the eligible population voted for president. Turnout inched to 58.3 percent in states with early voting, 60.4 percent in states with no-excuse absentee voting and 61.1 percent in states with same-day registration.
“If the goal is to increase turnout, the best proven way of doing so is same-day registration,” said Dan Tokaji, a lawyer and law professor at The Ohio State University whose practice and research focus on election law.
Thirty-two states allow early voting; 27 permit no-excuse absentee voting; and 10 allow same-day registration. Seven of those states and the District of Columbia allow all three, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Pennsylvania requires people to register 30 days before an election. Residents must vote on Election Day unless they sign an application for an absentee ballot because they’re disabled, traveling, in the military or can meet other criteria.
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