Pennsylvania’s election system works well for many voters, but through updating it, we can make it work better.

According to unofficial results from the Department of State, just under 25% of registered voters cast a ballot in the last general election held in November 2015. That means that only a quarter of our population is making important decisions about who leads our towns and cities as well as our courtrooms and state legislature.

For the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania ranked 29th out of all 50 states in participation, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project. Even though Pennsylvania’s election system works well for many voters, low voter turnout compels us to make some updates, so it works better for all voters.

We should start by updating Pennsylvania’s voting system to make it more convenient for citizens to cast their ballots, including those who already vote regularly. Pennsylvanians are busier than ever; work schedules and family commitments vary. Our voting system needs to accommodate these new realities and reflect the needs of today’s citizens.

  • Working people—especially doctors, nurses, caregivers, first responders, and others who work long hours and double shifts or have long commutes—struggle to make it to the polls on Election Day.
     
  • All voters, even voters who have never missed an election, would welcome more flexibility and choice in deciding when and how to cast a vote.

We should also update Pennsylvania’s election system to ensure all of our citizens—particularly seniors, veterans, voters with disabilities and working people—have an equal opportunity to make to make their voices heard.

  • Voters with disabilities and seniors sometimes can’t vote without assistance or transportation from family, friends or caregivers who may be busy on Election Day.
     
  • Although a new online voter registration system is making it easier, lifelong voters who move—even in their own town or city—as well as new voters frequently miss 30-day voter registration deadlines, preventing them from voting in their correct polling place.
     
  • Increasing flexibility and choice reduces barriers to voting and gives all citizens the opportunity to participate in our elections.

Other states have already taken common sense steps to update their election systems as far back as the 1970s and 80s. Pennsylvania can learn from the experience of other states and adopt updates that have been tested and proven throughout the country.