Luzerne County Mail-In Ballot Error, Open Primaries Examined in State Senate Hearing

HAZLETON – An error that caused 300 voters’ mail-in ballots to be delayed and a bill that would allow independent voters to participate in primary elections were the subjects of a hearing of the Senate State Government Committee held today in Hazleton, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-29), the chair of the committee.

“As we approach what is expected to be a contentious 2022 election here in Pennsylvania, we need to ensure that the mistakes made during the special election for the 116th state House district are not repeated in the future,” said Senator Argall.  “Errors like this erode voter faith in our elections and could prevent Pennsylvanians from exercising their right to vote.”

The committee heard testimony from Jonathan Marks, the Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions, and Michael Susek, the Director of Elections for Luzerne County, about how this error occurred and what is being done to prevent a similar situation in the future.

The committee then reviewed Senate Bill 690, which would allow the over 911,000 registered voters with no party affiliation to participate in Pennsylvania’s primary elections.  The committee heard testimony from two sponsors of the bill, Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Senator Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), Senior Advisor for the Committee of Seventy David Thornburgh, former Chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania Alan Novak, Former Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party T.J. Rooney, and Jennifer Bullock from Independent Pennsylvanians.

The Committee of Seventy’s testimony featured a pre-recorded message from Robert “Rocky” Bleier in support of open primaries.  Mr. Bleier is a decorated Vietnam veteran, four-time Super Bowl champion, and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor.  He spoke about how his experience as a veteran shaped his opinions on voting, and his concerns with how the current system of closed primaries disenfranchises the 49% of veterans who are registered independents.

All testimony can be found on the Senate State Government Committee’s website.

Contact: Jim Brugger

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