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Guest Opinion

Snowy Bucks County election shows need for further reform


The real winner in the Feb. 13 special election to fill the vacant seat of the 140th state legislative district in Lower Bucks County? Election reform.

But the race also showed how much more work needs to be done to truly modernize the state’s election process.

Pennsylvania lawmakers should be doing everything they can to ensure every voter can freely, easily, and conveniently access the polls on Election Day — whether in a primary, general, or special election. That’s why my organization is actively involved in Bucks County among so many others. Enhanced participation strengthens our democracy.

Prior to the pandemic, the PA General Assembly worked with the administration to put in place two signature bipartisan reform laws, Act 77 of 2019 and Act 12 of 2020, the first of which authorized mail-in voting.

We already know mail-in ballots work. They are proven to be safe, secure, accurate and fair. But the special election further demonstrated their value. Those who decided to vote by mail didn’t have to worry about being disenfranchised just because a snowstorm hit the area on the same day the polls opened.

The snowy special election also proved how much more we need to do. Beyond the snow, Pennsylvanians are busier than ever. Work schedules and family commitments vary. Our voting system needs to accommodate these new realities and reflect the needs of today’s citizens. There is no reason voting needs to be permitted on just one day.

To ensure every eligible voter can freely, easily, and conveniently exercise the right to vote, lawmakers should allow early in-person voting to relieve congestion at polling locations and give voters with challenging work schedules or family situations the chance to choose the time that works best for them.

They also should permit same-day voter registration, as most residents do not become engaged in elections (especially lower-turnout special elections) until the final days, when campaigns reach their peak.

Much will be made about these special election results — what they mean for constituents locally and for the state overall, given the enormous stakes. But we should also view it as another showcase about how reforms work and what still must be done to ensure we have the best elections process to serve voters.

Aya Mohamed is deputy civic engagement director for Make the Road Pennsylvania, an Allentown-based organization that works to empower communities of color through activism and political advocacy. She lives in South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County.

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