Department Of State And Governor’s Advisory Commissions Highlight Voting Access Milestones
Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman and the five Governor’s Advisory Commission executive directors today highlighted the Wolf Administration’s efforts to expand voter access and reminded Pennsylvanians Oct 24. is the deadline to register to vote in the November election.
“Whether a voter is requesting a no-excuse mail-in ballot from the comfort of their home or showing up to the polls on Election Day and proudly wearing an ‘I voted’ sticker, voting is a constitutional right and a way for people to make their voice heard,” Chapman said. “I am honored to be part of an administration that continues to work hard so everyone has equal access to the ballot box.”
Chapman noted that Wolf Administration efforts to expand voter access have included:
Executive Order 2022-03, which designates seven commonwealth agencies and programs as Voter Registration Distribution Agencies (VRDA) and greatly expands access for eligible Pennsylvanians to obtain voter registration information whenever they interact with these agencies.
The addition of online voter registration (OVR), which became available in 2015 and has been used more than 3 million times by Pennsylvanians.
The addition of Spanish- and Chinese-language voter materials to the state’s OVR portal.
The creation of a year-round voter hotline, 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772), that offers interpretation services in more than 200 languages.
The implementation of Act 77, the most expansive election law reform in Pennsylvania in over 80 years, which allows all eligible voters to vote by no-excuse mail ballot.
Chapman and the commissions’ executive directors also recognized the additional work that needs to be done to bring about an inclusive democracy.
“Broad access to American citizenship and voting rights was not available to Asians and Asian Americans until the Immigration and Nationality Acts of 1952 and 1965,” said Stephanie Sun, executive director of the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. “These acts removed race as a barrier to immigration and citizenship, but literacy tests still exist in effect for many Asian immigrants.
“Adding Chinese, the first Asian language to the election system in Pennsylvania, is historic and will allow more of our citizens to comfortably and confidently exercise their right to vote,” Sun continued.”
Luz Colon, executive director of the Commission on Latino Affairs, emphasized that Latino voters are the fastest-growing population in Pennsylvania.
“Therefore, it’s extremely important that we work closely with the Department of State to elevate their efforts on providing language access to our Spanish-speaking voters,” Colon said. “We are deeply committed to working with leaders and stakeholders at all levels of government to advocate for universal equality to ensure that Spanish resources and materials get into the hands of our Latino community statewide.”
LaDeshia Maxwell, executive director of the Commission on African American Affairs, noted that attempts to limit access to the ballot box continue.
“I believe there is a need for all Black people to be made aware of upcoming elections and most importantly, we all need to vote in November,” Maxwell said. “Only 57 years ago, Black people were given the right to vote. Our elders fought long and hard for this right and, if it wasn’t so important, people wouldn’t be working so very hard to limit our access to the polls.”
Rafael Alvarez Febo, executive director of the Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, highlighted that equal rights issues remain at stake in the November election.
“In a climate where people are working to limit our rights, the LGBTQ community needs to make our voices heard and vote,” he said. “With the recent wave of laws intended to infringe on LGBTQ people’s rights to exist in schools, the workplace and our society in general, it is imperative that we participate in the democratic process to ensure that laws like ‘Don’t Say Gay’ don’t become the law of the land in Pennsylvania.
“This November is a watershed moment for marginalized people to fight back against bigotry and reclaim space within our democracy,” Alvarez Febo said.
On Aug. 26, Pennsylvania marked Women’s Equality Day and the 102nd anniversary of women’s suffrage, although that victory was incomplete.
“This day signifies when white women were granted the right to vote,” said Moriah Hathaway, executive director of the Commission for Women. “Women of color did not gain the right to vote until after the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is important for us to acknowledge this exclusion of voters because we cannot allow this to happen again.
“Every citizen in the United States, who is a Pennsylvania resident over the age of 18, is eligible to vote and should be able to access their ballot without any barriers,” Hathaway added.
Chapman encouraged eligible voters to stay on top of the upcoming election deadlines:
Oct. 24: All paper voter registration forms must be received by a voter’s county board of elections by 5 p.m., and all online voter registration applications and changes to pre-existing registrations must be made by 11:59 p.m.
Nov. 1: Applications for a mail-in or absentee ballot must be received by a voter’s county election board by 5 p.m.
Nov. 8: Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for in-person voting. Voted mail ballots must be received by county election offices by 8 p.m.; ballots postmarked by then but received after that deadline will not count.
For more information about voting in Pennsylvania, visit vote.pa.gov. or the Bucks County Board of Elections