SAFEGUARDING THE UPCOMING GENERAL ELECTION
Continued from the Landing Page: The League of Women Voters joins lawsuit to defend Act77 mail-in-voting.
In June The National Republican Party and the Trump Campaign filed suit in Pennsylvania to bar pandemic-related temoprary changes put in place for the June primaries. Among other claims, they assert that the mail-in ballot drop boxes were unconstitutional in the way they were used and they are asking a Federal Court to bar them from use in the November Election. In addition to naming Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, the suit names every county election board in the State.
In response, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, July 13, the Democrats are asking the Commonwealth Court to address a number of issues that surfaced in the June 2 primary. Those issues include fixing the drop box problems that occured, extending the mail-in ballot deadline, and making it possible for voters to fix mistakes such as not including the internal "secrecy envelope" that was meant to protect a voter's right to secrecy in voting. In additon the suit seeks to uphold the requirement that voters can serve as pollwatchers only in the county in which they live.
The Pennsylvania League of Women Voters joins the ACLU, the NAACP, the Public Interest Law Center, Common Cause and several other civics and good governance organizations in seeking to join the suit to defend the state law. They argue that the suit, filed June 29 in federal court in Pittsburgh, is an attempt to suppress the Pennsylvania vote.
UPDATE: September 15, 2020
The pending litigation which includes the dropbox issue, is going to the PA Supreme Court.
EFFORTS TO END GERRYMANDERING CONTINUE
A little background on the problem: At this time Pennsylvania is near the very bottom of electoral fairness. In a PA House legislative proposal for HB 722, April 2017, the situation was detailed. "According to a recent study by the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), Pennsylvania ranks third worst in the nation for the fairness of its electoral boundaries -- only Wisconsin and North Carolina scored worse. When politicians manipulate district lines to benefit themselves and their parties, the public always loses."
Every 10 years voting districts are redrawn according to census data which makes this year critical.
Redistricting as it is now in Pennsylvania
The state House and Senate maps are a different story than that of the Congressional process. They are drawn by a five-member commission made up of Democratic and Republican leaders from the legislature as well as a chair picked by those lawmakers or, if they can’t agree, the state Supreme Court. That process is enshrined in the state constitution, making it a lot tougher to change than a simple law.
Critics of Pennsylvania’s redistricting system have long focused on who draws the maps as the most important area in need of reform. But experts from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School have argued that just as important are the rules for how it’s done.
Current Legislation Under Consideration
The Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA)
is currently under consideration. See our Calendar Page for a Town Hall Meeting on HB 2638 and SB 1242 introduced by Representative Wendi Thomas and Senator Killion respectively.
The bill is designed to ensure transparency in the redistricting process and to provide significant opportunities for public participation. It also introduces enforceable mapping criteria essential to real accountability.
If the legislature acts before the end of January, and Gov. Tom Wolf signs off, the new rules would be in place when lawmakers begin drawing the legislative and congressional maps next year.
Fair Districts PA is a nonpartisan, citizen-led statewide coalition working to create a process for redistricting that is transparent, impartial, and fair. For complete coverage of the effort, visit <http://www.fairdistrictspa.com>.
Note: A number of PA municipalities have passed resolutions supporting the effort to make redistricting fair.
LANGUISHING IN THE SENATE, A BILL TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS
HR1, For the People Act 2019 has been languising in the Senate since September 2019 when the bill was passed by the House and sent to the Senate. Senate Democrats have crafted their version of HR1 which is similar in most aspects but has a few minor differences. HOWEVER, Speaker McConnell has declared that he will not bring this bill to the floor. PERIOD. Senate Democrats are understandably frustrated and are attempting to garner support from their Republican colleagues. There is some talk of making the issue of protecting voter rights a campaign issue for 2020.
What's in HR1, For the People Act 2019?
HRI, For the People Act 2019 is a package of voting reforms aimed at guaranteeing voting rights for all citizens. The major elements of the bill are:
1. Expand Voter Registration by modernizing the registration process through expansion of automatic voter registration and online voter registration.
2. Implement Fair Redistricting by ending gerrymandering once and for all by creating fairly drawn maps.
3. Outlaw Voter Purging. Prohibiting illegal voter roll purging will ensure that eligible voters will not find themselves wrongfully stripped of the right to vote.
4. Restore the VRA - the Voting Rights Act. Restoring the Voting Rights Act will strengthen our elections by cutting back the obstructive laws that have kept eligible voters from exercising their right at the ballot box.
SHOULD WE ABOLISH THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE?
The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the direct-popular-vote method for electing the President and Vice-President is essential to representative government. The League of Women Voters believes, therefore, that the Electoral College should be abolished.
The League maintains that none of the Founders' original intentions remain relevant today and that the Electoral College is an imperfect system that is damaging to our democracy.
The Electoral College:
Puts the choice of president in the hands of voters in only a few so-called swing states;
Decreases participation in our democracy;
Polarizes our electorate into "red" and "blue;"
Has resulted five times in a presidential winner who did not receive a majority of the votes.
How Can the Electoral College be Abolished?
1. By constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment has been introduced many times. January 3, 2019 House Joint Resolution 7 "proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to abolish the electoral college and to provide for the direct election of the President and Vice-President of the United States" was introduced by several representatives.
2. A constitutional amendment can take years to pass. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an acceptable interim solution. States agree to give all their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. To date 15 states have signed the compact for a total of 189 votes. In order to go into effect, the compact must have a minimum of 270 votes.