Oct 14, 2022 - Politics

Barriers remain for Pennsylvania's voters, report shows

2022 Cost of Voting Index
Data: Schraufnagel, et al., 2022, β€œCost of Voting in the American States: 2022”; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Pennsylvania voters face higher barriers to casting a ballot than most other states, according to a nonpartisan study published in the Election Law Journal.

Driving the news: The 2022 Cost of Voting Index ranks the Keystone State 32nd for voting access in terms of time, effort and resources needed to vote.

Why it matters: Creating more obstacles to casting a ballot can discourage people from voting, depressing turnout in a swing state where past elections have had narrow margins of victory.

The big picture: Rules concerning which mail-in ballots should be counted are not settled in Pennsylvania.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court this week invalidated a lower-court order that had permitted undated mail-in ballots to be counted in the state.
  • The decision, just weeks before November elections, has caused confusion over whether election officials can count mail-in ballots missing a date on the envelope.

Details: 10 categories were taken into consideration in the report, the two most important being ease of registration and early voting availability.

  • New Hampshire is the hardest state to vote in, but it had the seventh-highest turnout rate in 2020.
  • Oregon is the easiest.

Zoom in: Philly is sending out mail-in ballots this week for the Nov. 8 election following delays over late races added to the ballot.

  • Mail-in ballots can be sent out starting 50 days before election day, per state law.
  • Of note: The 2020 election was the first year Pennsylvania implemented no-excuse mail-in voting.

What they're saying: Marian Schneider, senior voting rights policy counsel at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, told Axios it was a "fair assessment that Pennsylvania ranks in the middle of the pack" when it comes to voting access.

Yes, but: The state lacks same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Between the lines: Threats to election workers also put elections at risk, Philly officials said during a news conference on Thursday.

  • Al Schmidt, president of the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy, called for boosting laws and protections for election workers, which he said have failed to keep pace with current threats.
  • "The Pennsylvania law around election interference is too narrow β€” it is outdated," District Attorney Larry Krasner said.

Be smart: Oct. 24 is the last day to register to vote in the November election.

  • The final day to apply for a mail-in ballot is Nov. 1. All mail-in ballots must be returned by 8pm on Nov. 8.
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