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Folmer is right: Make it easier for us to vote: Editorial

Posted 2/8/19

When Sen. Mike Folmer is enthusiastic about an issue, it’s easy to tell.

Remember, this is “Marijuana Mike” the prime sponsor of Act 16 of 2016, which allows the use of medical …

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Folmer is right: Make it easier for us to vote: Editorial

Posted

When Sen. Mike Folmer is enthusiastic about an issue, it’s easy to tell.

Remember, this is “Marijuana Mike” the prime sponsor of Act 16 of 2016, which allows the use of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania for certain medical conditions. He was the driving force behind pushing it through.

While that topic is still high on his priority list as he starts his fourth term, he also is now chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, which oversees elections.

Now he has a few things he would like to get done to making voting easier.

The Lebanon Republican, whose 48th Senate District includes Middletown, Royalton, and Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships, recently told the Press & Journal that state elections code has not been fully addressed in at least 70 years.

“There have been some tweaks here and there but nothing major,” he said. “Our goal here was to modernize some of our antiquated, outdated philosophies and update it, bring it up to snuff a little bit.”

So last week he and a bipartisan group of legislators rolled out some suggestions. Most of these ideas have merit, and we support them.

Pennsylvania’s Constitution restricts voters wanting to vote by absentee ballot to situations where “their duties, occupation or business require them to be elsewhere or who, on the occurrence of any election, are unable to attend at their proper polling places because of illness or physical disability or who will not attend a polling place because of the observance of a religious holiday or who cannot vote because of election day duties, in the case of a county employee, may vote, and for the return and canvass of their votes in the election district in which they respectively reside.”

Folmer wants to get rid of those limitations, opening absentee ballots to anyone who wants to vote early and by mail. He said 27 other states and the District of Columbia offer “no-excuse” absentee voting.

That sounds good to us, as does his plan for a permanent absentee voting list. Once a voter opts in, they automatically receive an absentee ballot — with procedures for removing inactive voters. Again, Folmer is on the right track.

We aren’t fully supportive of everything he put forth. We want to hear more about his idea for “curbside voting,” aimed at better assisting voters with disabilities. If a voter is physically unable to enter a polling place, he or she may ask to have a ballot brought to the entrance of the poll or to a car at the curb. Voters then must be read the entire ballot — unless the voter asks otherwise. The poll workers can’t try to influence their votes.

While we are all for making it easier, we believe that voters should enter the polling place to vote.

We also aren’t sure about his plan to address what he calls “largely an American phenomenon” — write-in candidates. As it stands, a single write-in vote can elect someone to a position.

He wants to require successful write-in candidates to receive the same number of write-in votes as would be required if they had filed signed nomination petitions. If 10 petition signatures are required for a given office, a write-in candidate would need to receive a minimum of 10 write-in votes to be elected to that office.

We don’t see that as a necessary change. If a write-in vote or two is all that is cast, then it should be enough.

We appreciate that Folmer went out and talked with county elections officials about these plans, and that the Senate State Government Committee will hold additional public hearings, various work groups, and meetings.

Folmer is also realistic about the fact that there is only so much the government can do to make it easy to vote. The bottom line is, it’s still up to residents to do it.

He also wants to ensure that “our elections are secure and that there isn’t any tomfoolery.”

A wise goal indeed.

We wish our senator good luck in shepherding these proposals to the finish line. For the most part, changes that make it easier to vote without jeopardizing the security of the ballot box have our support.