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State senator says primary election should be open to more voters

Tuesday’s primary features many hot races across Pennsylvania, but more than a million voters will have no say in who wins. The Keystone State is among 12...

Tuesday’s primary features many hot races across Pennsylvania, but more than a million voters will have no say in who wins.

The Keystone State is among 12 across the nation that have closed primaries. That means only registered Democrats and Republicans get to vote on who wins their party’s nomination to appear on the ballot in the fall general election.

“We should be looking at more ways to get people into the process of voting and not excluding,” said state Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-15th).

Teplitz is sponsoring a bill that would allow independent voters to cast a ballot on primary day by choosing to vote either with the Democrats or Republicans. After casting a ballot, those voters’ registration would revert back to being independent.

“They may lean towards one party in one cycle and another party in another cycle, and they’d like to have a role in choosing the nominees. And, I think that’s a fair concern,” said Teplitz.

Party leaders have opposed plans like that one over the years.

Of Pennsylvania’s 8.2 million registered voters, 1.1 million are either independent or registered with a small party. Taxpayers pay the bill for the primary election, not the parties. Independents and third-party members can take part if there’s a referendum on the ballot.

Thirteen states run open primaries, in which anyone can vote. A dozen have closed primaries. The remainder have what are called “hybrid” systems that fall somewhere between open and closed.

Rep. Seth Grove (R-196th) said he thinks the state should stick with system currently in place.

“It really opens it up to more manipulation than what we need in our election system,” said Grove, who represents a portion of York County.  “So, that closed primary protects the rights of those individuals who want to be part of that party and allow them to select their candidate moving forward.”

Grove is being challenged Tuesday in the Republican primary for his seat by Elizabeth Roberts, a U.S. Army veteran. Roberts said she has doubts about Teplitz’s proposal. But, she questions why taxpayers have to foot the bill for the primary.

Roberts said, “The Republicans and the Democrats in Pennsylvania have a monopoly on representation. They’re private organizations. Why would taxpayers be funding the primary election in the first place?”