EDITORIAL: Take advantage of new Pa. districts and vote
It's all over but the voting.
Pennsylvanians cast ballots Tuesday to decide a raft of consequential elections, from the state’s top elective office to one of its two U.S. Senate seats to all 18 House districts for the first time since a new, more fairly drawn political map was been put into place. State-level and local races bring the political impact closer to home.
All the more reason that the state’s registered voters make the all-important trip to the polls. Registered voters only. Unlike 15 other states and the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania still does not allow same-day registration. In fact, it closes the door to voter registration as soon as legally permissible — 30 days before Election Day.
Those are just two of the reasons that a study conducted and published by the Election Law Journal ranked Pennsylvania 31st nationwide when it comes to ease of voting. The lack of early voting and excuse-free absentee ballots also contribute the state’s closer-to-the-bottom-than-top ranking.
At least Pennsylvania’s voters haven’t faced the kinds of hurdles being set up elsewhere across the country.
In Georgia, for example, home to an exceedingly tight governor’s race, some 100,000 residents have been purged from voting rolls because they haven’t voted in recent elections. Another 53,000 voter registrations — a majority of them for residents of color — have been delayed because the information doesn’t exactly match that of driver’s licenses or Social Security cards. Something as seemingly inconsequential as using “Joe” instead of “Joseph” is enough to throw a roadblock between a would-be voter and a polling station.
That’s egregious. Even worse: Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp is overseeing the election in his current role as secretary of state. No less an elections watchdog than former President Jimmy Carter, a Georgia resident, has beseeched Kemp to resign and hand off election-oversight duties in the interest of voter confidence. Nothing doing.
Georgia is not alone when it comes to voter suppression. In North Dakota, Republicans have pushed a voter ID law that requires a residential address. That disenfranchises the thousands of Native-American state residents who live on reservations and use Post Office boxes.
Elsewhere, Republican lawmakers (again) have been making it harder for voters in what they deem are Democratic-leaning districts to cast ballots. “Over the past decade,” writes the New Republic, “Republican elections officials have been shuttering polling places in minority neighborhoods, low-income districts, and on college campuses at a feverish pace.”
Along with hyper-partisan gerrymandering of political districts — as was employed in Pennsylvania — these types of tactics have enabled Republicans to tighten their grip on political power even as they capture a smaller percentage of the overall popular vote.
Keystone State voters, at least, won’t be voting in such brazenly unfair districts this year. The Supreme Court on Oct. 29 rejected state Republicans’ latest attempt to challenge a court-drawn map that replaced one that the state’s top court threw out for excessive partisanship.
That’s yet another reason for state residents — those who are registered — to make their voices heard on Tuesday. Pennsylvania’s lopsided 13-5 GOP advantage in the House — despite the state’s 4-3 Democratic edge in enrolled voters — contributed to the party’s national majority. Will that oversized state majority hold under a more bipartisan map? The state’s — and the House’s — political governance hang in the balance.
State and federal House leadership are just two of the important questions that will be decided on Tuesday. Be sure to cast your vote and help provide the answers.