State Lawmaker Wants Commonwealth to Consider All-Mail Elections

Aug 13, 2012

With the ongoing debate over the state’s new Voter ID law, at least one state lawmaker thinks it would be easier to move to mail-in ballots in the future. Representative Nick Kotik (D-Allegheny) introduced a bill months ago that would allow for all-mail elections. That is needed, he said, as the state’s voting system becomes antiquated, “we need to a whole host of options to make it easier and more convenient for people to vote, especially in today’s technological world, I mean I can envision a system down the road where there will be no more polling places.”

That is already becoming a partial reality in some places that offer voting by mail, such as Ohio, New York, and Colorado. Polling sites are still open for those with disabilities and for ballot drop-off in those states. But opponents to such an idea in the commonwealth fear there would be too many problems with mail-only elections. Kotik said that hasn’t stopped other states.

“The most conservative states, like Texas, have postal voting. That’s not a bastion of liberalism, and they have passed that, enabling people in Texas to vote early or vote by mail,” he said, “I just think we need to have a full-blown discussion and talk about all the options and making it easier and more convenient for people to vote.”

Kotik said the state’s new voter ID law does just the opposite. He envisions confusion, long lines and other problems at polling places in November. The bill passed without any Democrats voting in favor of the voter ID law. Republican supporters said it was a way to eliminate voter fraud, but Kotik said there’s no evidence of any such fraud.

“We have 1.4 million more Democrats in Pennsylvania, but that didn’t stop Tom Corbett from being elected governor. I mean if we would have had all this fraud and the ability to manipulate elections, Dan Onorato would be the governor today. This business of a wide-spread conspiracy and impersonation, it just doesn’t exist today,” he said.  Democrat Dan Onorato ran against Republican Tom Corbet in the 2010 general election.

Kotik added mail-in ballots would make voting more convenient and would lead to higher voter turnout as those who can’t easily make it to the polls would be able to vote from home.

The bill is awaiting committee action, and while Kotik would like to see something happen before the November election, he said that’s unlikely in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Still, he added, he wants to get the conversation started.