State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York City, Thursday announced he has reintroduced election reform legislation.
At a press conference in his York office, DePasquale detailed four bills.
The measures would allow independents to vote in primaries, ease ballot access for third parties, allow early voting, reform corporate campaign contributions and create new disclosure rules for no-bid contracts.
DePasquale's proposal would make the number of signatures independent and third-party candidates need to get their names on the November ballot the same as what is required of the Republican and Democratic parties.
Currently, a third-party candidate for governor must get the number of signatures equal to 2 percent of the turnout of the previous gubernatorial election. That number can change with each election -- in 2006 it was 26,000 signatures and in 2010 it was 20,000. But it's always much higher than the 2,000 signatures a Republican or
Democrat running for statewide office needs, said Stephen Baker, chairman of the Green Party of York County.
Similarly, DePasquale wants to see more voters have access to the primary elections where the slate of candidates for the general election is decided. His plan would allow independents to vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries, but not both.
Voters registering as independents are the fastest-growing voting bloc in the state, but currently they have no say in the primaries, DePasquale said.
And to increase voter participation, he wants to allow all voters to cast ballots in the 15 days prior to both primary and general elections. Voters taking part in early voting would need to show up in person, provide photo identification and sign a certificate confirming their participation.
Political contributions: On the issue of political contributions by corporations, DePasquale's legislation would require publicly held companies to get shareholder permission prior to making political contributions totaling more than $10,000 annually. He said his bill is crafted to work within the confines set by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
Asked how he would square that effort with complaints that labor union leaders also spend money on candidates that their members might not approve of, DePasquale said he's open to that discussion.
Finally, the reform package would require individuals and companies seeking state no-bid contracts to disclose all contributions to state officials. The disclosures would be posted on the Internet apart from any other campaign contribution or political donation database currently being used.
Seeking cosponsors: DePasquale is seeking cosponsors for his effort and hopes several of the measures will pass, since they have enjoyed Republican support in the past.
He said a version of the no-bid contract legislation was put forth by the GOP during Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell's administration, and allowing independents access to primary elections is reintroduction of legislation previously put forth by former GOP state Rep. Sam Rohrer.
And DePasquale's proposal to reduce the number of signatures needed by third-party candidates is identical to the Voter's Choice Act introduced in January by Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon. The Green Party has long sought the reforms contained in the Voter's Choice Act, but party leaders have never let such a bill get out of committee.
However, Baker said this legislative session could be different.
"I think there is a more of a reformist legislature in Harrisburg this year than there has been in the past," Baker said. -- Reach Charlie Lardner at 505-5439 or clardner@york dispatch.com.