By Skylar D. Hurwitz
We must not normalize delaying elections amidst uncertainty.
The confusion and concerns around the public health risks of the March 17th special elections across Pennsylvania must not become the norm for elections in 2020. Looking ahead to the April 28th primary election, our leadership in Harrisburg has time to take immediate, proactive action to secure our elections.
In recent press conferences, Governor Wolf has consistently voiced potential support for pushing back Pennsylvania’s forthcoming primary. In the midst of a crisis, many things are uncertain – but one thing must be known by all Pennsylvanians with certainty: our democracy will continue operating and elections will occur as scheduled.
Pennsylvania’s Act 77 already makes vote-by-mail ballots available for the forthcoming April 28th primary without needing any reason or excuse. What if we just took it one step further by having an all vote-by-mail election similar to states like Colorado and Oregon who have held all vote-by-mail elections for years? Simply mail every registered voter their ballot with a pre-stamped envelope to send it back. Representative Kevin Boyle has already brought this concept forward with his HB 2637 draft.
Aside from the obvious benefit of allowing Pennsylvanians and poll workers – who are overwhelmingly elderly and at-risk – to minimize social contact during a pandemic, vote-by-mail elections are shown to have numerous additional benefits.
Since enacting all vote-by-mail elections in 2013, Colorado experienced a 40% decrease in the average cost of administering elections, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. While this would begin as an emergency response investment, it has the potential to be a change that reduces long-term election administration costs.
On top of that, while the data is ambiguous from state to state, Utah claimed an average increase of 2-4% in voter participation.
Would it be easy to get this arranged so quickly? It would be a major effort, but we have the tools. We just need the political will. Uncertain times demand leadership – and no one should worry if and when the next election will occur. Declare an all vote-by-mail primary election. Mail every voter a ballot and pre-stamped return envelope.
I repeat, we must not normalize delaying elections amidst uncertainty.
Skylar Hurwitz is a New Hope resident and candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 1st District.