On Friday, January 2, the Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP, www.gpop.org) requested the assistance of governor-elect Tom Wolf in reforming the Pennsylvania election process. Leaders of the Green Party pointed out six reforms that would make elections more just and that would increase the participation of eligible voters. These reforms are already common practice in other states and cities.
Green Party Goals for PA Electoral Reform
Approved, January 2, 2015
The members of the City Committee of the Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP, www.gpop.org) hold that fair elections, involving the maximum number of citizens, are the cornerstone of a representative democracy.
The members of the GPOP City Committee therefore request that Governor-elect Tom Wolf approve the following electoral reforms. Most of these reforms have already been enacted in cities and states around the nation. Some of these reforms will require legislation, and some will require the cooperation of the appointed Pennsylvania Secretary of State or the elected County Commissions of Pennsylvania’s 67 Counties.
Open the elections to minor parties
Pennsylvania should change the nomination process to allow the candidates of minor political parties (sometimes called “third parties”) to participate. A political party should be recognized by the Secretary of State once it has at least 0.05 percent of the total number of voters registered in their party. This process is used in other States, such as Delaware. Following this model, candidates from minor parties, like the two established parties, would have no signature requirement to have their names placed on the November ballot. Currently, the Voters Choice Act (SB 195) would make this reform happen. (That legislation was previously known as SB 21.)
End corruption in regulation of elections.
The PA Secretary of State and the elected County Commissioners should clean up the electoral process. Pennsylvania’s elections should be run by non-partisan committees: no favorites, no endorsements, no ward leaders. The non-partisan committees that manage our elections must be free from political influence, and committee members should not be involved in the management of political parties.
Paper record of votes at every polling place
The Democratic primary in Philadelphia’s Second City Council District was won in 2011 by less than 50 votes. The losers could not demand a re-count because our voting machines do not have a paper record of the vote. THIS IS WRONG. We need voting machines with a verified paper record at each polling place.
Decent pay for polling place officials
Polling place officials (judge of election, majority inspector and minority inspector) are paid less than minimum wage. THIS IS WRONG. These are the people who insure the integrity of the electoral system and guarantee our right to a fair and honest election. Make sure they receive a decent, respectable wage.
Registration and education of new voters
Since the Pennsylvania Secretary of State is responsible for the registration of voters, that office should have a department with funding to actively register and educate new voters. This department should focus on the registration of returning veterans, high school seniors, college freshmen and formerly-incarcerated people.
Instant runoff voting to achieve majority rule
In many of Pennsylvania’s primary and general elections, candidates for state and county office win with less than fifty percent of the vote. For example, in the Democratic primary for Philadelphia’s 8th City Council District, the winning candidate in 2011 received only 39% of the vote. The Philadelphia City Commission declared “the winner” to be a person who 61% of the voters had voted against. THIS IS WRONG. We need instant runoff voting (IRV) to determine which candidate has the support of a majority of the voters. IRV is widely used by nations and political parties around the world. Within the U.S., IRV is used in local elections in California, Maine, Minnesota and Massachusetts and in leadership elections within the Green Party.
Kristin Combs, Recording Secretary
Hillary Kane, Treasurer
Eric Hamell, Membership Secretary
Bernadette Cronin-Geller, At Large
Chris Robinson, At Large
for the City Committee
Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP)