Rabb's proposed VOTE Act would make voting much easier in Pa.
PHILADELPHIA, April 11 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., will introduce a bill to make it much easier to vote in Pennsylvania.
"With the April 17 deadline to register to vote in the Pennsylvania primary just days away, I'm encouraging everyone who qualifies to make sure they register. You can even register online at votespa.com. And I'm also looking ahead to ways the legislature can make it easier to use your constitutional right to vote. Many of these are things that other states already allow, and Pennsylvanians deserve the same ease of voting," Rabb said.
"Our commonwealth is only as strong as the democracy we bolster through our state laws. In an era of record low turnout and deep public cynicism, it's more important than ever to create new avenues of expression and engagement for citizens and to expand and empower our electorate toward liberty and justice for all."
Rabb's proposed Voting Opportunities Toward Empowerment (VOTE) Act would:
- Provide for no-excuse-needed absentee voting and create the option for a permanent absentee voter status for those who are disabled or otherwise unable to travel to the polls.
- Establish early voting beginning 15 days before Election Day and ending at 6 p.m. on the Sunday before the election. Voting sites would be open at or after 7 a.m. and close by 8 p.m. each day, with at least 10 hours for voting each weekday and at least eight hours for voting on each Saturday and Sunday.
- Allow citizens to pre-register to vote at age 16 and receive a postcard from the county board of elections on their 18th birthday with information on where and how to vote.
- Automatically register eligible people to vote when they interact with state agencies or apply for state employment, admission to a state-owned or state-related university or apply for state funding for college. People would have the option to decline registration.
- Allow prospective voters to register to vote on Election Day and cast a provisional ballot – subject to their registration’s approval – at their local polling location.
- Enable portable voter registration when voters move residences within the commonwealth. This would allow voters to go to their new polling location on Election Day, fill out a certificate updating their registration address and cast a ballot.
- Require any changes to election or voting laws or procedures to be quickly and widely publicized to voters by the state, county or local municipality. It would also require the establishment of voter education campaigns.
- In jurisdictions where a single language minority exceeds 3 percent of the population, election officials would have to provide all voting and election materials – including notices of changes in law or procedures and voter education campaigns – in English and any minority languages.
- Require the state Department of Corrections and county prison wardens or supervisors to notify the bureau of elections in an inmate’s county of residence when the person is released. This would enable county bureaus to move a former inmate’s voter registration status from "on hold" to "active."
- The bill also would remove references to convicted felons being barred from voting for five years after incarceration. That provision was struck down by Commonwealth Court in 2000. Although it has not been enforced since the court ruling, state law has not been changed. The bill would make the appropriate deletions.
Rabb also has proposed legislation to reform special elections for the Pennsylvania legislature and to have Pennsylvania join the National Popular Vote compact, which would effectively replace the Electoral College for choosing presidents once enough states join.