By Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland)
Voters will encounter several changes as they head the polls for the primary election next year. In fact, one of the changes gives registered voters another option instead of actually standing in lines at polling places.
As part of a new law, voters will be able to cast absentee ballots without an excuse. This means a voter can cast votes via a mail-in ballot. In the past, voters needed a legitimate excuse to obtain an absentee ballot.
To protect the integrity of elections, the law includes restrictions on voters who already cast an absentee ballot from appearing at a polling place to vote in person.
Mailed and hand-delivered absentee ballots, including emergency ballots, must be received by the board of elections by 8 p.m. on Election Day. This aspect will help ensure elections are completed and winners determined as quickly as possible.
This law, which I voted for when it was in the House, brought about the greatest changes to how we vote in 80 years. Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy. We must ensure our elections are secure and open to all people who are eligible to vote. I believe this bill does that all while ensuring secure and fair elections.
To address the funding gap counties are experiencing as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf unilaterally decertified all voting machines in the state, the law provides $90 million in funding for new machines. Though $90 million is a large figure, it covers a little more than half of the $150 million cost to buy new machines throughout the Commonwealth.
Wolf’s unilateral decertification of the machines reaped havoc in some counties. In order to protect something like this from happening again, the law prohibits the decertification of voting systems in 50% or more of counties unless the General Assembly is notified of a replacement plan at least 180 days prior to the decertification.
The first step toward voting is to register. To help people register to vote in time for elections, the deadline to register has been moved to 15 days prior to an election, down from 30 days prior.
Another major change voters will see, or, rather, not see, is the option to vote straight party. Straight-party voting mistakenly assumes that a candidate’s ideological values apply simply because of party affiliation. Rather, voters should vote for the candidate who best fits their beliefs. This may lead to more research into candidates. This, I believe, is a good thing considering the people elected to office impact nearly every aspect of constituents’ lives. I also have full faith that you, the voter, are informed to make the decision on an individual candidate.
Voting in all elections, from municipal elections to presidential elections, is an important aspect of being active in your community. Having won the 2018 primary by one vote, I know firsthand that each vote counts.
There is one last thing I want to remind you of as we enter 2020. The Pennsylvania primary election will be held on April 28. So, read up on candidates and head to the polls to vote. Or, stay at home and vote by mail. The option is yours.
Representative Torren Ecker
193rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross