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COVID-19 response: Pa. must expand voting options

KEVIN BOYLE

Philadelphia

With elections only a month away, and positive coronavirus tests increasing daily, we are at a crossroads. While the elections are a priority, we cannot and should not ask voters to leave their homes and enter often congested facilities to vote.

In Philadelphia alone, over a million are registered to vote, a fifth of which are seniors who are most at risk from the virus.

Poll workers, often senior citizens themselves, are at no less risk of infection. Polling places are also disproportionately at senior centers, nursing homes or schools. It would be an absolute catastrophe to concentrate this many people together during this difficult pandemic.

Pennsylvania must be realistic regarding the impact of coronavirus on the upcoming April 28 primary election. At a minimum, Pennsylvania should move its scheduled primary election date of April 28 to June 2 or later, to give county election officials more time to prepare a contingency plan for voting.

Of the six states slated for an April 28 primary election date, Connecticut and Maryland have already delayed their primaries. Rhode Island’s board of elections voted to ask their governor to postpone to June 2.

Only New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania are continuing as planned. For Pennsylvania, this places unnecessary risks on residents.

The options here are clear. Due to the ongoing, long-term nature of this pandemic, it would be prudent to make use of the mail-ballot voting provided for by Act 77.

I recently introduced House Bill 2367, which would mail every voter a ballot application with prepaid postage for the upcoming primary election. This would allow every voter to partake from the comfort, and safety of their own homes.

At a minimum, Pennsylvania must move its primary election date to June 2 or later. However, the safest and most effective response to COVID-19 is passing legislation like House Bill 2367 to mail voters a ballot application with prepaid postage.

This necessary legislation will allow for Pennsylvania voters to remain safely at home and ‘flatten the curve,’ reducing the number of individuals exposed to coronavirus and the strain placed on our overburdened healthcare system and workers.

(State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, serves Philadelphia and Montgomery counties and is Democratic chair of the House State Government Committee.)

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