On August 11, 2021, the Green Party of Pennsylvania called for the government for Pennsylvania Electoral Reform. Greens have been demanding a more representative electoral system since 2019, they continue to call the government for free and fair elections by revisiting and expanding their policy ideas.
This is the second time a party calls for election reforms in 2021. This year, Pennsylvania Republican Party proposed changes to the state’s 1938 Election Code but ultimately vetoed by Governor Tom Wolfe according to The Green Party of Pennsylvania sources.
In a press release on their website, Greens stated that “Pennsylvania’s decades-old election code needs serious analysis and change, especially in light of lessons learned in 2020 while trying to hold elections during a global pandemic.”.
Green Party policies for election reform
Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission: The GPPA sources stated that under Pennsylvania’s current law, a political party holding the majority at the census can draw the maps on their own according to demographics that may benefit them. This reform establishes a citizen’s commission which is made up of regular citizens to draw the maps.
Ranked Choice Voting and Proportional Representation: The Greens state that ranked-choice voting (RCV) “gives voters the opportunity to better express their preferences in candidates”. They added, “Legislative bodies should be elected by proportional representation methods such as Single Transferable Vote (STV), a form of ranked-choice voting that uses multi-winner districts – that is, each district elects multiple people at a time, to ensure that the resulting winners proportionally look like and represent their voters.”.
Equitable Recognition of All Political Parties and Equitable Ballot Access: This is a revisited version of an idea drafted by the Greens in 2019 which recognizes the right of minor party and independent candidates without draining their resources or unfair petitioning requirements. Greens demand that “Legislation should set equitable ballot access rules and petitioning requirements, in part by lowering thresholds for all candidates for any level of office to the range of tens to hundreds of nomination signatures, rather than the hundreds and even thousands required today.”
Publicly-Funded Elections: On the publicly-funded election model replacing private donations, Green said that “One such model, proposed by groups like March on Harrisburg, is to use “democracy dollars,” in which voters may send their democracy dollars – sort of a voucher system – to the candidate(s) of their choice, who could then exchange the vouchers for campaign materials”.
Click here to learn more about the use of “democracy dollars”. If you’re interested in learning more about policy ideas, click here.
Previous attempts from Green Party of Pennsylvania
The same year, 2019 the Greens have also laid out ideas on lowering registration requirements, public financing of elections, voter-verifiable paper ballots, and ranked-choice voting.
According to Chris Robinson’s statement on the GPPA website, the policies to lower registration requirements like the Voter’s Choice Act would “open the door for qualified candidates who are independents or from ‘third parties.’ In addition, the Voter’s Choice Act would give minor party status to any ‘third party’ with membership of 0.05 percent of all registered voters.”
The co-chair of GPPA has also commented on the proposals, especially on ranked-choice voting. He stated that “voters should not feel pressured to choose a ‘lesser evil.’
Beth Scroggin, chair of Chester County Green Party, remarked, “In our current system, the winner of the election is often the candidate who raised the most money. As a result, candidates feel pressure to accept corporate contributions. While they may initially claim that the corporate contributions will not influence the decisions they make in office, the candidates soon come to rely on corporate contributions for reelection, at which point they allow those corporate donors to have a hand in how they govern”.
Interview with Garret Wassermann
Q: “According to your latest press release and your previous statements,
even though some of the electoral reforms demanded by The Green Party of
Pennsylvania such as voter-verifiable paper ballots are implemented, The
GPPA has been calling for electoral reforms such as ranked-choice voting
and same-day voter registration since 2019. What reasons do you think
are behind the refusal to analyze and change Pennsylvania’s election
Garret Wassermann: “The election system is established in laws written by elected officials. Naturally, those elected officials don’t see much urgency in changing an electoral system that works for them — after all, they get elected, and regularly re-elected! So from their perspective, the system seems fine “as-is”, and needs no changing. However those exact reasons are why the electoral system needs to change. It weighs too heavily toward supporting incumbents and political parties already in office, which restricts the ability of voters to truly have a choice in all elections. The electoral process needs to allow voters the ability to say they do not agree with the current direction of government and new leadership is needed, meaning the electoral system must fairly and equitably support candidates and parties outside of the historical Republican/Democratic duopoly.”
Q: “Can you elaborate on the long-term impacts of the inadequate
electoral code on the future of the Green Party, and the lessons we
should learn considering the 2020 elections during a global pandemic?”
Garret Wassermann: “The electoral code will continue to make it difficult for the Green Party to run candidates for high-profile campaigns such as Congress, but we can overcome these hurdles with volunteers and the support of the public.
I think in light of the global pandemic during 2020, we’ve learned how important it is to use traditional media and social media presence to reach residents, especially when we can’t go door to door. I believe this means we need to participate much more often in established media, such as reaching out letters to the editor, op-eds, and press releases to newspapers and the like, but also build our own social media presence with Green-sponsored newsletters and videos. Good outreach can help offset ballot access challenges by bringing in more volunteers and members, and help build movements around political demands and get the national conversation growing even when we’re not on the ballot.”
Q: In the press statement, Greens proposed reforms that replace the
current model of private donations with a publicly-funded model or
equitable ballot access which will recognize the right of a minor party
and independent candidates. Can you explain how current models create an
unfair disadvantage to minor parties and independent candidates?”
Garret Wassermann: “In many ways, money wins elections. Money buys exposure — particularly, more media attention. Money can also be used to pay people to do the ballot access petitioning and meet higher ballot access requirements that are much more difficult to meet with volunteers alone. Even once on the ballot, the challenge is then ensuring the public hears about our Green platform and message. When polls are conducted, Green platform ideas like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, which originated with the Green Party, get a lot of popular support, often overwhelming majorities. But, voters don’t know that these ideas are in our platform because we can’t easily reach them without media, which requires funding! To have a real democratic public debate, in which voters discuss, debate, and make well-informed votes between multiple options, we’ve got to have an equitable funding model that ensures the ideas of more than two parties (really just one party when you consider how close Republicans and Democrats are on many subjects) can be heard by all.”
If you’re interested in learning more about election reform policy ideas of The Greens, click here.