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  • Diana Dakey

Some things just aren’t partisan and shouldn’t be

Voting is one of those things. Given that all voting- age citizen have the right to vote, we watched with amazement and dismay at how a straightforward process that we have been engaged in for centuries could be so fraught.

Of course, we want clear rules for casting votes and counting votes. We want everyone to have confidence in the legitimacy of the process.

Given the challenges of holding an election during a pandemic, it actually went well. Some voters did not like the outcome of the Presidential election and looked to place blame on courts and the law. I was just reminded by a program I watched, that Act 77 (that expanded vote-by-mail) was passed at the end of 2019, fully pre-COVID. That legislation was prompted by a real need to plan ahead to modernize voting systems. Upon negotiations between the Republican and Democratic caucuses, legislative changes were made so that Republicans got elimination of straight-party-ticket voting; Democrats got no-excuse absentee ballots (aka mail voting.)

There has been a lot of study and much weighing in:

  • After the spring 2020 primary, our legislature passed a bill to require that the Department of State study how voting went, with particular emphasis on whether voting by mail caused problems. The Act 35 report was filled with data and recommendations.

  • Just this January, the County Commissioner’s Association made their recommendations.

  • Presently, the PA House GOP is holding hearings.

  • And, the Election Law Advisory Committee, as mandated by Act 77, has formed.

So, there will be no shortage of recommendations. Let’s just hope they go with changes that benefit the most voters and democracy, because you would not want to ever find yourself legislated into some category of voters, for whom voting is more difficult by proscriptive rules.

Frustratingly, I’m already in a category of voters for whom voting has been made, not just difficult, but impossible. I’m denied equal rights as a voter because I am an independent voter. I have not been registered with the R or D party for several years now. Those R- and D-registered voters are the only ones who are allowed to vote in primaries in Pennsylvania. I’m just not defined by either the R or D platforms. I’ll agree with some Rs on some issues, some of the time. I’ll agree with some Ds on some issues, some of the time. Often, neither the Rs or the Ds are seriously addressing the issues that I find fundamental, because they are too busy catering to a “base”, whoever that is. Wouldn’t it be great if candidates had to reach out to all voters and, once elected, govern for all voters. To make that a reality, we need more voters, people like me, participating in primaries.

I’m holding out some hope that the Election Law Advisory Committee will get around to the topic of opening primaries to independent voters. The issue was nudged forward in the last state legislative session with bipartisan, broad majority support for SB 300. Then, the bill died in the House State Government Committee. (Why that happened is a subject for another blog.)

I urge you to keep the conversation going. Why should I be required to join a party to vote in a primary? The constitution guarantees freedom of association. That’s also freedom from association. And, why are my hard-earned tax dollars paying for R and D primaries so that the base can show up and continue to elect candidates who don’t need to pay attention to my (and your) issues?

Back to the theme of this blog, some things just aren’t partisan or shouldn’t be. That includes my right to vote in a primary.

Diana Dakey is an Independent Voter, writing from Lackawanna County.

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