LWVPA supports voting reform package; applauds commitment to modernizing PA's Election Code

For Immediate Release – October 25, 2019

Contact: Jill Greene (717) 234-1576

jgreene@palwv.org

 

LWVPA SUPPORTS VOTING REFORM PACKAGE; APPLAUDS COMMITMENT TO MODERNIZING PA’S ELECTION CODE

(Harrisburg, PA) October 25, 2019 - The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania supports Senate Bill 421, a sweeping election reform package that addresses many of the election-related concerns that have plagued Pennsylvania for decades.

LWVPA applauds the bipartisan effort to pass common sense reforms to strengthen and modernize Pennsylvania’s elections. “For far too long, Pennsylvania has languished under an archaic election code,” Jill Greene, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania said. “It’s encouraging to see our legislators taking positive steps to bring our elections into the twenty-first century.”

Many of the reforms proposed in the legislation are long overdue. “Pennsylvania currently makes it very difficult to vote,” Greene said. “Giving voters more time and more options, and making the process more convenient will encourage more citizens to exercise the most important right they have.”

In addition to shortening the voter registration deadline from 30 days to 15 days before an election, providing for no-excuse voting by mail, and extending the absentee ballot deadlines, SB421 also provides much needed funds for new voting machines and for census outreach. LWVPA supported the replacement of Pennsylvania’s outdated voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots, and we are glad to see the legislature providing some of the help the counties will need to secure their voting systems.

LWVPA is also a member of the Governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission, and we are proud of the Commission’s efforts to secure funding for outreach to ensure that all Pennsylvania residents are counted. Census data not only determines how many representatives Pennsylvania will have in Congress, it is used to determine funding for many essential programs in education, transportation, infrastructure, healthcare, services to the elderly, and services to the poor.

With an upcoming election that promises to be historic in scope, and a critically important Census count beginning next spring, this reform package comes not a moment too soon. LWVPA urges residents to contact their legislators and express their support for SB421.

For more information on LWVPA’s positions, visit www.palwv.org

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The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania is the state affiliate of a nationwide, 99-year old nonpartisan grassroots organization of women and men who believe that through informed action, people can make profound changes in their communities. Founded in 1920 out of the woman suffrage movement, LWVPA volunteers work every day to provide voter services, educate the public, and advocate for issues that matter.

Press release: Pennsylvania Good Government Group and a Voter File Lawsuit to Block “Logrolled” Constitutional Amendment

 October 10, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 CONTACT: Andy Hoover, media@aclupa.org, 717-236-6827 x213

 HARRISBURG - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm Dechert LLP filed a state lawsuit today arguing that the pending Marsy’s Law ballot question is unconstitutional because it combines many changes into a single amendment -- what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has called “logrolling.” The lawsuit was filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and an individual, Lorraine Haw of Philadelphia.

Because the proposed amendment impacts three articles and eight different sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution, each proposal must be considered as a separate amendment, the lawsuit states. Marsy’s Law would create 15 constitutional rights for crime victims that would change how courts treat people who have been accused of a crime, including whether they can get bail, who they can call as witnesses, the pardons process, and the right to be free from double jeopardy, which prohibits the government from prosecuting a person twice for the same crime. Both the ACLU and the League of Women Voters oppose Marsy’s Law.

“We all recognize the harm that is done when someone is victimized, but this ballot question undermines fundamental rights that date back to the founding of our country,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “People who are accused of crimes have constitutional rights because they are facing the full weight of a government that is trying to deprive them of their liberty.

“Whatever one believes about Marsy’s Law, legislators proposed a fatally flawed constitutional amendment. The court should force the legislature to go back to the drawing board so that voters can consider these proposals one at a time, as required by the Constitution.”

The legal action filed today cites Article 11, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that “[w]hen two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately.” But the question on the ballot for the general election on November 5 gives voters an all-or-nothing choice on all of the proposed changes.

“The General Assembly cannot change the process by which amendments to Pennsylvania’s Constitution are adopted,” Jill Greene, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said. “That right is reserved for voters, and, thus, the right of the voters to consider each amendment separately must also be respected. By bundling many amendments into one proposal, the legislature has ignored the right of the people to carefully consider each proposal on its own merits.”

The lawsuit also argues that the ballot question the voters will see is unconstitutional because it is vague and fails to accurately convey to voters the actual meaning of the amendment’s many constitutional revisions. Marsy’s Law is more than 500 words, but the ballot question narrows the amendment down to just 73 words, asking voters if they support the right of crime victims to “be treated with fairness, respect and dignity.”

“We are proud to represent the League of Women Voters, along with Ms. Haw, and to protect Pennsylvania voters’ right to create the specific right or rights they wish to afford to victims of crime, with full understanding of the impact that those new rights will have on existing constitutional provisions,”  said Steven Bizar, one of the lawyers for the League and the two voters.

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the individual plaintiffs are represented by Mary Catherine Roper and Andrew Christy of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Steven Bizar, Tiffany E. Engsell, and Craig J. Castiglia of Dechert LLP. More information about this case, including a copy of the complaint, is available at aclupa.org/ML-lawsuit.

 

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LWVPA VP Jamie Mogil discusses Marsy's Law on Radnor Studio 21

LWVPA Vice President of Government and Social Policy Jamie Mogil appeared on Radnor Studio 21 with host Roberta Winters, President of the League of Women Voters of Radnor to discuss ballot referenda in Pennsylvania as well as Marsy’s Law, the proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the November 5, 2019 ballot.

You can find LWVPA’s position on Marsy’s Law here.

PittCyber Releases Analysis of PA's New Voting Machines

On Thursday, Pitt Cyber (the Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security at the University of Pittsburgh) and Citizens for Better Elections released an analysis of PA’s new voting systems which concluded that the counties that purchased only Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) are paying nearly double that of the counties that chose Hand Marked Paper Ballots (HMPBs). More about the report can be found here.

In February 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed an order to require PA’s 67 counties to replace their outdated voting systems and acquire new systems that adhered to higher security standards. More about PA’s path to new machines and information on the new systems can be found on the PA Department of State’s website.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Cyber Security report released in January 2019 extensively documented the vulnerabilities of PA’s voting systems and called for action to replace those old systems with new, voter verified paper ballots.

LWVPA strongly encourages counties to consider purchasing Hand Marked Paper Ballot systems, as these are the most secure systems available. Citizens can find contact information for their county election officials here.

Mayor of Pittsburgh Honors 100th Anniversary of PA's Passage of 19th Amendment

On June 24, 2019, Mayor Bill Peduto honored Pittsburgh area suffragists in a celebration of the centennial of Pennsylvania’s signing of the 19th Amendment. Members of the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania were present, along with descendants of the women who campaigned throughout the region for womens’ right to vote.

LWV of Greater Pittsburgh President Maureen Mamula and LWVPA Co-President Terrie Griffin with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

LWV of Greater Pittsburgh President Maureen Mamula and LWVPA Co-President Terrie Griffin with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

The League of Women Voters will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2020 alongside the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The LWV formed out of the woman suffrage movement in February 1920. For more of our history, visit our website here.

League Member wins Voting Advocacy Award!

On July 24 at the 2019 Annual Conference on Independent Living in Washington D.C., LWV of Berks County member Shelly Houser was awarded the National Council on Independent Living’s District III Advocacy Award for her work in voting equality and education! Shelly is a fierce advocate for voting rights for disabled people and was active in the examinations and evaluations for the new voting machines coming to Pennsylvania in 2020. Congratulations on the well deserved honor, Shelly!

 
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