Carlow Culture

Voiceless in the Ballot Box: The Plight of Disenfranchised Voters in PA Primary Elections

Written by: Parker Wadding 

Photo by Jamie Emig

Photo by Parker Wadding – Picture of Students for Ballot PA going to meet with Representatives

Students from 16 different colleges across PA gathered on the Rotunda steps in the capitol building in Harrisburg on Monday, October 16th to lobby for the Ballot PA initiative. Students for Ballot PA is a student-run organization that supports opening PA’s closed primaries. PA is one of only 12 states with entirely closed primaries. A closed primary election involves only granting those who are registered as Republican or Democrat to vote. This law effectively cuts out voters who are registered as Independent or third party.  

The number of people who register as Democrat and Republican has been significantly decreasing in recent years, while the number of voters who identify as Independent has been increasing. Over 1.3 million Pennsylvanians are registered as independents or third parties, which accounts for over 14.5% of all voters registered in PA.  

A recent study has found that 61% of 18 to 24-year-olds don’t identify with either political party. Due to PA’s Closed Primaries, 61% of young voters will be unable to vote in the primary elections.  

Josh Summers, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, who is dedicated to the Ballot PA cause stated his opinion on the issue, “When ordinary people are shut out of the right to vote and we tolerate that, we pave the way for less sensible government and our other civil liberties to be taken from us.”   

The hard work carried out by the Students for Ballot PA initiative paid off when the PA House State Government Committee passed two open primary bills (HB976 and 979). However, the fight is not over yet! Please consider visiting Ballot PA’s website linked below to stay up to date with the latest news.

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