Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Would changes to election process increase voter participation in PA?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Dec 10, 2013 4:05 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, December 11, 2013:

voters thumbnail.jpg

In 32 states and the District of Columbia, any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to election day.  It's called early voting.  Pennsylvania is not one of those states.

Absentee ballots are accepted in all 50 states.  Pennsylvania is one of 21 states where an excuse is required to vote via absentee ballot, while 27 states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without offering a reason.

Two states -- Oregon and Washington -- vote entirely by mail.  Seventeen other states conduct certain elections by mail.  Pennsylvania does not.

Common Cause/Pennsylvania* is studying and recommending ways to modernize how voters cast their ballots.  The goal is to get more Pennsylvanians to vote.

Appearing on Wednesday's Smart Talk is Elizabeth Randol, Common Cause/PA's Election Modernization Campaign Manager.  She'll address those voting issues along with others such as Voter ID being required at polls and the Voting Rights Act

*Common Cause describes itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen's lobbying organization promoting open, honest and accountable government.


Elizabeth Randol


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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-11 09:11

    Nick in York emails--

    Ah can't we vote online? We are able to pay our income taxes online and verify our identities through various means that are sufficient enough for the various local, state, and federal governments to determine that we are who we claim to be...if it's good enough for our money, why not our votes? Being part of a demographic that is historically under represented in the voting process, I can say with confidence that I would vote much more often if it were online!

    • Elizabeth Randol img 2013-12-11 21:01

      Thank you to Scott and WITF, and thank you to the listeners and those who posted questions here. Three of the comments today address the issue of online voting. It's an important question and one that I briefly touched on in response to Nick's question. Although fraud is certainly a reasonable concern, the most significant problem isn't confirming the identity of the voter, it's the security of the system. There are two major security concerns: first, the vulnerabilities of voters' personal computers and second, the vulnerabilities of the servers and systems that comprise the online voting infrastructure. Hacking, malware, manipulation, and viruses can be introduced into the system via a personal laptop/desktop. But hacking the backend server can result in people being redirected to fake sites, changing a voter's vote, compromised anonymity, and more.

      In addition, unlike individual transactions online (banking, filing taxes, etc.), voting is final and irreversible. If someone has used my credit card fraudulently, I can be notified and I have recourse to correct that transaction. However, there are no "do-overs" in voting. Once your ballot is cast, you cannot get it back (if it was even cast properly in the first place). Fixing a flawed (or hacked) online voting database is not the same as fixing a fraudulent purchase or an unauthorized withdrawal. The election itself cannot be reconstructed if the data itself is compromised, resulting in election results that are at best inaccurate and at worst are wrong.

      Verified Voting is a wonderful resource for issues regarding the accuracy, security, and verifiability of elections. Information regarding online or internet voting can be found here:

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-11 09:12

    James commented on our Facebook page—

    Has the possibility of voting on-line been explored? Use the voters Social Security or Drivers License Number as an ID?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-11 09:41

    David in Susquehanna Township emails:

    Increasing voter roles simply to show the world that the U.S. is an engaged democracy is anti-intuitive. A 60+year old in my neighborhood (former state employee) asked me a couple of years ago if Obama was a Republican or Democrat. Seriously, do you really want every eligible adult to go to the polls? Also, we need to get electioneering out of the polling place. These are the candidates' groupies who were unable to convince voters to go with their guy during the interminable, sordid campaign. PA statute says no campaigning on election day within 10 feet of the polling place. There should be no electioneering anywhere on the premises on election day. If I'm not familiar with a little known candidate for some reason, I always vote against that person if he has his people accosting voters or handing out their propaganda, because I know that they would almost always be Republicans or otherwise Conservatives.

    • Elizabeth Randol img 2013-12-11 21:22

      David, although I certainly understand your concern about uninformed voters, we are certainly a far cry away from every eligible person showing up at the polls. We, of course, don't support a system that penalizes people for not voting (e.g., Australia that fines people for failure to vote) and we also know that simply being registered does not ensure turnout. But there are 51 million people (1 in 4 eligible voters in the U.S.) who are not registered. Of that 51 million, one-third are people who have moved and have not re-registered. I will always side with measures that make it easier to engage in the electoral process, as long as the process is secure, transparent, and verifiable. The other side of the equation is to educate voters so that they can make more informed choices...but that's a topic for another show!

  • raise.a.pint img 2013-12-11 09:51

    The fundamental difference between online voting vs. banking, shopping, etc is the beneficiary. In voting this is the recipient hence a greater cause for concern. Meaning, if you go online and have data stolen it is you who suffers. With voting the State (& other voters) suffer. Michael