Elections Government Opinion

Op-Ed: Open Primaries Would Strengthen Democracy in Pa.

State Rep. Jared Solomon (D-202) and State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-200), who represent parts of Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, say the time has come to update the Commonwealth’s “archaic” primary election system to allow for unaffiliated voter participation.

Est. Read Time: 2 mins

By state Reps. Jared Solomon and Chris Rabb

Over 1.3 million Pennsylvanians are registered as independent voters–in other words, they aren’t affiliated with any political party. Unaffiliated voters are the fastest-growing political party in Pennsylvania. Young voters are the fastest-growing segment of unaffiliated voters. They represent a broad range of ideas and views from across the political spectrum. It is unfortunate that these individuals are left out of our democracy when they are locked out of our state’s primary elections and their voices are silenced.

Pennsylvania currently operates under a closed primary system, meaning that you cannot cast a ballot in a primary election unless you are a registered member of a political party. This archaic way of running elections disenfranchises over one million voters in Pennsylvania.

It denies certain voters–who do not subscribe to either major party platform–a say in choosing the candidates who will ultimately represent them. Therefore, there are two classes of voters in Pennsylvania, with unaffiliated voters as second-class citizens–denied equal access to the ballot–as opposed to the Democratic- and Republican-affiliated taxpayers who can exercise their right to vote fully in primary elections.

It amounts to taxation without true representation, and Pennsylvania is missing out on the views and ideas of these potential voters.

The good news is that support is growing for the idea of open primary elections in Pennsylvania. We introduced legislation (H.B. 979) that would allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections.

Prestigious newspaper editorial boards, Pennsylvania’s past five governors and more have voiced their support for open primaries. As representatives of the people of Pennsylvania, we must ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

We hope our colleagues in the General Assembly will realize that bringing more people into the electoral system ensures faith in the democratic process.

State Rep. Jared Solomon (D-202) and State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-200) represent parts of Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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