Pa. Senators Introduce Bill to Allow Independents to Vote in Primaries

Independent voters may soon be able to vote in primary elections, which have historically been open to only registered Republicans and Democrats in Pennsylvania

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Two Pennsylvania senators have introduced legislation that would allow independent voters to vote in primary elections in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania currently has closed primaries, which means only voters who are registered with a certain party can vote in primary elections, such as the one coming up on Tuesday, May 16.

Pennsylvania has 926,842 voters with no party affiliation, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

If it passes, the bipartisan legislation would allow them to participate in future primary elections.

The legislation is co-sponsored by state senators Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) and Dan Laughlin (R-Erie).

Independent voters would be permitted to cast their vote on either the Republican or Democrat ballot, according to the bill.

Voters who are registered with either the Republican or Democratic Party would continue to vote on their party's ballot.

"Not everyone can identify within the two-party system we currently have. That choice shouldn't silence their vote," Boscola said in a statement.

She added that the switch to open primaries is likely to empower voters and increase voter participation.

"This is simply about engaging the voters and letting them vote. For us to prevent them from doing that, thereby ignoring their opinions and voices, is just wrong," Laughlin said in a statement.

More than a dozen cosponsors from both parties have signed onto the bill already, but Boscola said in a press release that she believes the legislation faces an uphill battle.

Pennsylvania is one of only nine states where independent voters cannot participate in primary elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states with closed primaries include Delaware and New York.

A record 49% of Americans describe themselves as independent, according to a Gallup survey conducted in March 2023.

The change is driven by millennials and members of Generation X who are continuing to identify as independents as they get older.

Previous generations have typically shed their Independent identity as they aged, according to Gallup.

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