In a Penn Township, Westmoreland County, precinct, a woman stood confused as she looked at her ballot.
“These are all the candidates? The one I was voting for isn’t here.”
The poll worker explained to her that all the candidates she was allowed to vote for were on the ballot. The candidate she wanted wasn’t in her party, so she couldn’t make that choice.
That is the Pennsylvania primary system in a nutshell.
The state has a closed primary. If you want to pick which Democrats are going to move on to the general election in November, you can’t be registered as a Republican in the spring.
If you want to cross party lines and say, “I don’t like any of these options,” you have to plan ahead in the Keystone State. Neighbors like New York and New Jersey are similar.
But not all states do it that way. In Ohio, voters don’t register as party members, but request the ballot of their party at the poll or remain unaffiliated and just vote on referendums or amendments. In West Virginia primaries, unaffiliated voters can pick either ballot, but those who registered as a party member are limited to that party.
Nationwide, the options range from Election Day registration with wide-open options to rigid rules like Pennsylvania and a lot in between.
The woman voting in Penn Township couldn’t understand the restriction. She’s not alone. Plenty of people have advocated for updating the process to at least allow voters who aren’t R’s or D’s to have a say.
In June, the state Senate voted 42 to 8 for a change that would let the hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated voters choose a Republican or Democratic ballot on a primary election day.
The state House should follow suit and give Pennsylvania voters — regardless of which team they support — the opportunity to raise their voices in every election, not just in November.
The above editorial was published Oct 6 by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Its views are its own.