By Adama Sirleaf
A new report by Common Cause, found that Pennsylvania is having mixed results in applying the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Alternatively, as WITF stated, “Pennsylvania is a mediocre student when it comes to heeding the advice for improving the voting experience.”
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration was established in March 2013 by Executive Order 13639 to improve the efficient administration of Federal elections and voter experience. The executive order was passed to address some of the issues of the 2012 . In fact, there were record long lines on the day of the 2012 election. In Texas and Virginia people had to wait up to four hours.
The Common Cause report examined ten states that were predicted to have close gubernatorial or congressional races in the mid-term elections. The ten states chosen were Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was chosen because it had a very competitive 2014 governor election. In February, US News declared Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett “the most vulnerable governor.” At the November 4, 2014 election, Corbett was one of the few Republican incumbents to loose their reelection bids.
Common Cause examined how the ten states were implementing nineteen recommendations that the Presidential Commission on Election Administration proposed in its January 2014 report. Of the nineteen recommendations, Common Cause rated Pennsylvania as unsatisfactory in six areas. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration first recommended that states adopt online voter registrations and this was one of the areas that Common Cause listed Pennsylvania as unsatisfactory. According to Common Cause, Pennsylvania has only introduced a bill for online voter registrations. Another recommendation of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration was that states should consider establishing vote centers, which Pennsylvania has not done.
Importantly, Pennsylvania was found unsatisfactory in providing bilingual poll workers at polling places where a significant number of people do not speak English. This is important because Pennsylvania is partially covered by Section 203 of the Voter Right Act. The Act provides that: “Whenever any State or political subdivision [covered by §203] provides registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots, it shall provide them in the language of the applicable minority group as well as in the English language.” To be covered under the act, political subdivision must include a minority language community that is more than 10,000 or over 5 percent of the total voting age citizens. Although it has covered subdivision, Common Cause stated that Pennsylvania has not addressed the issue of having bilingual poll workers.
In another six categories, Common Cause ranked Pennsylvania as having mixed results. For instituting electronic poll books, Common Cause found that while some jurisdictions in Pennsylvania use electronic poll books, it is not mandated statewide. Political subdivisions may institute electronic poll books if they wish, but Pennsylvania’s secretary of state must certify electronic poll books.
In the remaining categories, Pennsylvania proved satisfactory in six areas and one is an issue of federal law. According to Common Cause, Pennsylvania proved satisfactory in the areas that dealt with the recruitment and training of poll workers. Pennsylvania also proved satisfactory in regards to making sure that polling places are accessible for voters.