A growing coalition of Pennsylvania organizations are advocating for legislation that would allow independent voters to participate in partisan primaries. Pennsylvania is one of only nine states where voters not affiliated with the major parties are unable to participate in taxpayer funded primaries — disenfranchising more than 1.2 million voters statewide.
Thanks to the leadership of the Committee of Seventy, momentum has been building to allow unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections. With the strong support of Senate President Pro Tem, and with support from the Ballot PA coalition and editorial boards across the Commonwealth, bipartisan legislation passed in the Senate in June 2019 on a 42-8 vote; it stalled in the state house at the onset of the pandemic. It was the first time that a primary reform bill had ever successfully passed through a legislative chamber in Pennsylvania since the current primary system was codified in 1937.
In an open primary system, used in 16 states, independent voters are allowed to vote in either party’s primary, moderating the primary process by forcing politicians to appeal to their base as well as independent voters.