Wolf signs election package; straight-party voting eliminated

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday signed a bill that, among other things, eliminates straight-party voting.

Senate Bill 421, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Lisa Boscola, passed the House of Representatives, 138-61, and the Senate, 35-14.

“Straight-ticket voting makes it more difficult for independents or minor-party candidates to compete against the two major political parties. It is unnecessary and bad for our democracy,” said Boscola, adding that voters will still have the option of voting, individually, for all candidates of the same political party.

The bill provides $90 million for new voting machines, extends the time to register to vote to 15 days before an election, changes the deadline for absentee ballots to 8 p.m. on election day and creates a 50-day, no-excuse mail-in voting procedure.

Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh, Northampton)

Boscola, of Northampton County, said she will continue to press for allowing registered independents to vote in the primary election of their choice.

Locally, Reps. Tom Murt, Martina White and Jared Solomon voted for the bill in the House. Reps. Kevin Boyle, Mike Driscoll, Ed Neilson, Joe Hohenstein, Jason Dawkins and Isabella Fitzgerald voted against it.

Sens. Tina Tartaglione and John Sabatina Jr. voted against the bill.

Dawkins, chairman of the Philadelphia House Delegation, released a statement on behalf of a majority of delegation members:

“Removing the choice to vote a straight-party ticket, or not, would adversely impact working-class voters who are members of low-income communities, often communities of color,” he said, in part.

Pennsylvania ranks 25th for voter participation, with 51 percent of the eligible population voting in the 2018 election.

••

District 1199C, AFSCME District Council 33 and AFSCME District Council 47 have endorsed the Working Families Party’s Kendra Brooks, along with Democrats Helen Gym, Derek Green, Isaiah Thomas and Katherine Gilmore Richardson for City Council at large.

State Reps. Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee, both of western Pennsylvania, have endorsed Brooks and her fellow Working Families Party candidate, Nicolas O’Rourke. So has Nikil Saval, Democratic Leader of the 2nd Ward.

“At a moment when we face compounding threats of white supremacy, climate crisis, and grotesque income inequality, supporting the status quo – including even inadvertently protecting Republicans, the enemies of labor and the planet – is not good enough,” Saval wrote in a Philadelphia Magazine editorial.

The Philadelphia Inquirer endorsed Brooks, Gym, Gilmore Richardson, Allan Domb and Dan Tinney for Council at large.

••

Matt Wolfe, a Republican running for Council at large, is criticizing Republican Councilman Al Taubenberger for comments made by his campaign spokesman, Frank Keel.

In a Facebook comment, Keel referred to Wolfe’s 31-year-old son, Ross, as a “dumb-a– kid,” accusing hime of running a Facebook page criticizing Taubenberger for voting for a resolution commeding Mayor Jim Kenney for his sanctuary city policy.

“Politics can get dirty, and I understand that, but attacking a candidate’s son is reprehensible. Al has kids. I bet he would find it offensive if other campaigns started targeting them for attacks,” Matt Wolfe said.

Keel, on Facebook, has also likened Matt Wolfe to a creepy coroner and Mr. Burns, from The Simpsons, saying a vote for him would be “excellent.” ••