Our Opinion: Pennsylvania late to embrace early voting

November 14th, 2016 10:57 am

Would it be a good idea to …

… allow early voting in Pennsylvania?

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already give their residents the option of registering their political choices prior to Election Day. As a result, in the presidential race pitting eventual winner Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, early voting was estimated to account for more than 30 percent of the ballots cast.

Oregon and Colorado handle their balloting by mail, allowing their voters weeks to mull the options and return the slips.

This state, however, hasn’t followed the herd. The only permissible form of early voting is absentee balloting, which is granted only for specific situations such as a physical disability or scheduled travel that takes the voter outside his or her municipality for the entire time polls are open.

Advocates for expanding the voting window, predominantly Democrats, have introduced bills in Harrisburg that so far have languished. Earlier this month, state Sen. Wayne Fontana, who represents voters in the Pittsburgh area, convened a hearing to draw attention to the matter and related legislation that he sponsored. His proposed bill would permit voting 15 days before a primary or general election at certain polling sites in every county.

“In the simplest terms,” Fontana said, “my bill caters to the voters rather than making voters cater to some specific voting date.”

In the pre-Civil War era, early voting provided sufficient time for people living in rural areas to get to the polls and participate. More recently, it has gained acceptance “to make voting more convenient and to shield against bad weather having an outsize impact on a major election,” according to an article last month on philly.com.

Legitimate concerns have been raised about the extra cost associated with early voting. It also could be problematic if there were last-minute ballot changes.

Is Pennsylvania’s voting protocol due for an update?

Or is the current setup – keeping polls open for 13 hours on a Tuesday – sufficient?

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