Kinsey: PLBC opposes Senate Bill 421 for its negative impact on marginalized communities

HARRISBURG, Oct. 29 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, issued the following statement opposing S.B. 421, which passed the House today.

“All Americans have a fundamental right to vote, so any election reform we pass should make it easier for people to cast their votes. Unfortunately, we have a long legacy of doing the opposite in this country. As legislators, we should avoid any effort to make voting harder for disadvantaged communities.

“By taking away the convenience of straight ticket voting, the process would be longer and wait times would extend for Pennsylvanians who already must fit voting into their busy schedules. It is going to heavily impact whether our most vulnerable citizens are able to participate at the polls,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey was joined by other members of the PLBC who also voiced concerns about S.B 421.

Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., agreed that this bill is an act of voter suppression that will undoubtedly disproportionately affect people of color, especially in urban centers such as Philadelphia.

“I am astounded by Republicans’ efforts to limit the freedom of choice that voters had by eliminating straight party voting, to create confusion at the polls by purging thousands of voters from the registry and to offer hollow voting reforms without resources to implement them. I find the audacity of those Republicans to try to dress this up as anything but voter suppression deeply disconcerting,” Bullock said.

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., whose proposals to delay implementation of the voter-registration deadline change failed Monday night, said he supports most of the bill but fears the changes will be rushed and ultimately affect voters.

“This is like asking a Model T to be a Ferrari, to go as fast, and it is impossible,” Kenyatta said. “Let’s do this right. We all want to do this, let’s just do it right.”

Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., added that removing the option for straight party voting takes away a meaningful choice when there’s no evidence that keeping this option produces any harm.

“This cynical provision of S.B. 421 is a solution looking for a problem at the expense of black voters who would be the most disadvantaged by removing this option in competitive statewide elections. The disparate impact is by design and it is the primary reason Republican leadership has expedited its passage over the many bills that Democrats have offered over the years that address the very same reforms in the best aspects of S.B. 421.”

Rep. Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, said, “While this bill does make strides toward needed reforms of our election system, we should not allow Republicans to strip away options that make voting easier and more convenient. The truth is, removing the single party option will make voting more intimidating and will discourage people, many of them new and first-time voters, from exercising their right. We should be expanding voting access instead and making it easier for everyone’s voice to be heard. Though it may do some good, there are some troubling components to this bill that we cannot ignore!”