The following editorial appeared in the York Daily Record.
“It’s a little embarrassing to go to the national conferences and listen to what other states are doing. It always seems like we’re way behind when it comes to election reform.”
— Pedro Cortes, acting Pennsylvania secretary of state, in a recent Associated Press story
Pedro Cortes can say that again.
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And again, and again, and again about many issues.
Other states always seem to be way ahead of Pennsylvania on good government issues:
• Open records (we’re finally catching up)
• Campaign finance limits
• Public accountability for lawmaker expenses
• Draconian ballot access rules for independent and third-party candidates
And so on.
But let’s stick with election reform for a moment.
Rather than moving ahead toward smart use of technology to improve elections in our state, lawmakers for the past several years tried to go backward to the days of poll taxes and literacy tests.
The war over Voter ID raged through much of the Corbett administration.
We know: Republicans pushing the idea actually touted it as election reform — securing the vote from fraudsters who went to the polls and used fake names.
But it was reform of a nonexistent problem. Proponents of the law couldn’t find a single verified example of voter impersonation at the polls.
It was an obvious effort to suppress turnout among people likely to vote Democratic.
The effort collapsed under the weight of litigation.
So, what can we expect from Cortes and his boss, Gov. Tom Wolf?
Some good things — if they can persuade the General Assembly to go along.
Cortes said the idea of online voter registration might have a chance at passage.
Twenty-one states allow voters to register online — and three others will soon have such laws.
It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea in an age where we use digital tools for so many government functions — filing taxes, for instance.
Many believe online registration would boost participation among young people.
There are some security and logistical issues to solve with online registration, but other states have worked most of the bugs out. We need not be digital trailblazers here, just sensible followers.
How about open primaries?
Or same-day registration?
Or early voting — or relaxed rules about absentee balloting?
How about all-mail voting?
Yeah, we’re getting crazy here.
This is Pennsylvania, where we don’t rush headlong into newfangled ideas.
Cortes is right.
It’s kind of embarrassing.