State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Report finds cracks in PA's election policies

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 3, 2014 5:00 PM
PollingboothMay2014_AP.jpg

Photo by Associated Press


An election law progress report finds Pennsylvania is a mediocre student when it comes to heeding the advice for improving the voting experience.

Common Cause, the nonpartisan liberal advocacy group behind the report, surveyed 10 states with tight gubernatorial or congressional elections to see if they had implemented any of the January 2014 recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Conclusions: If change gon' come, it's gon' take a bit more time.

Pennsylvania got poor marks for its lack of early voting or online voter registration. The latter is known for reducing error in the voter rolls and cutting administrative costs. The review also found the state wanting in its bilingual support. Three Pennsylvania voting "jurisdictions" are required by federal law to have bilingual poll workers for voters who don't speak English, but there's no effort to go beyond federal standards.

The state gets some things right, noted Barry Kauffman, head of Common Cause Pennsylvania.

"We have a pretty good training program for poll workers, but then there's one absurd part of that," Kauffman said. "Poll workers are not required to take the training, under law." The state does mandate training for poll judges, inspectors, and machine operators.

In general, Pennsylvania's shortcomings stem from its rather decentralized voting system. Policies are left to counties to implement.

"I think what we're looking for is a little more uniformity statewide," said Kauffman. "A person that votes in Erie, or a person who votes in Punxsutawney or a person who votes in Philadelphia should all have similar voting experiences. They shouldn't have to vote through different hoops."

You can read the Common Cause report here.


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