HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – More than a million Independent or third-party voters will have no say in who is on the Pennsylvania general election ballot this November. That’s because Pennsylvania has a “closed primary,” meaning Republicans can only vote for Republicans and Democrats can only vote for Democrats in the primary election.
State Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) has introduced Senate Bill 690, which would allow Independents to choose which primary to vote in.
“You have Trump Republicans to Progressive Democrats who are for it,” says David Thornburgh, a “good government activist” with Committee of 70. He says the closed primary sounds like “a classic case of taxation without representation” with a primary election that costs taxpayers $20 million.
Republicans and Democrats would still be limited to voting under their registered party in the primary.
“Quite frankly, involving an extra million people in the Pennsylvania primary process would be a good thing and it would be welcome this year by the way,” noted Senator Laughlin.
There are currently nine Republicans running for Governor and seven in the race for Senate in the May 17 primary. Democrats have just four candidates in the Senate race and one, Josh Shapiro, running for Governor.
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A similar bill passed the State Senate last session, but it stalled in the State House. State Government Committee Chair Seth Grove (R-York) has his doubts and used an analogy that’s fitting with the upcoming NFL Draft.
“Let’s say the Steelers go to the draft,” posed Grove. “The Steelers say, ‘you know what Ravens, I want you to draft our team this year.’ Would any Steelers fan like that?”
Thornburgh says the fears of political mischief are overblown. What isn’t overblown, he says, is that closed primaries open the door to candidates more left or right of the average Pennsylvanian voter.
“This might help attract and elect more problem-solving candidates that just don’t have to play to the extreme wings of both parties.”
Laughlin says “it’s one of the reasons we need to have Independents brought in to help even out or smooth out some of our inconsistencies in our primaries.”
Voters have until May 2 to register in time for the primary.