Powerful House Democratic Southeast Delegation Express Opposition to Eliminating Straight Ticket Voting

HARRISBURG, Oct. 29 – State Rep. Margo Davidson, chair of the House Democratic Southeast Delegation, sent a letter on behalf of the delegation to Gov. Tom Wolf requesting that he veto S.B. 421 if it lands on his desk, because the bill would eliminate straight-ticket voting, which the delegation writes is an act of voter suppression on minorities, low-income communities and individuals with disabilities.

The bill passed the House today (138-61).  The bill heads back to the Senate for concurrence in amendments.

Davidson, D-Delaware, said, “The elimination of straight-ticket voting is a form of voter suppression — a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Minorities, low-income communities and people with disabilities are going to be the people negatively impacted by the elimination of straight-ticket voting. These communities have historically been among our most vulnerable citizens, and we must preserve their constitutional right to vote.”

The letter outlines three principal concerns:

  • Eliminates freedom of choice for voters -- voters have traditionally been able to choose to vote either straight ticket or cast individual votes for over a century in Pennsylvania.
  • Additional voter suppression -- the elimination of straight-ticket voting would act as a form of voter suppression in high-density precincts – which predominantly comprise people of color and low-income communities — where lines to vote already are long and logistics difficult. Simply put, voters in these communities cannot afford to take two hours or more off to vote. 
  • Voter confusion & barriers to access -- given the high volume of changes that the bill would create, it is foreseeable that there will continue to be confusion regarding process and implementation. Pennsylvanians will be voting on brand new machines in the 2020 primary and general elections, which many voters may never have seen or used. That has the potential to further complicate voting and increase wait times.

In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that had blocked a law eliminating straight-ticket voting because it found that it disproportionately impacted African-Americans’ right to vote, as it would dramatically increase long wait times to vote in African-American precincts.

In July, Wolf vetoed the proposal because of the elimination of straight-ticket voting. Wolf and Republican leadership reportedly have come to a compromise in which the administration would receive $90 million for new voting machines in exchange for Wolf signing S.B. 421 into law.