FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2020
Bipartisan coalition advocates for safe voting options in General Election
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Several current and former Philadelphia elected officials today announced they will join VoteSafe Pennsylvania, a bipartisan coalition advocating for all Pennsylvanians to have access to safe voting options in the upcoming November election.
Current Philadelphia City Councilman Isaiah Thomas, Councilwoman Gilmore Richardson, and former Councilwomen Donna Reed Miller, Blondell Reynolds, and Jannie Blackwell will work to raise awareness among Philadelphia voters in the upcoming months so they know what voting options are available to them under the state’s constitution and according to local election laws.
“No one should have to risk their health or safety to exercise their right to vote,” Thomas said. “It is absolutely essential that voters feel safe voting — no matter how they decide to vote — and that they have confidence in the integrity of the process and the accuracy of the results.”
Because of the pandemic, the risk to public health could last months. Experts are warning of a second, potentially even larger, wave of infections this fall, even as cases trend upward now. This makes it all the more important for Philadelphia voters to understand their options, including the new option to vote by mail in Pennsylvania. Despite the many myths about voting by mail, the reality is that mail-in ballots are a safe and secure method, and do not advantage one party over the other.
“With the increase in demand for mail-in ballots and the pandemic’s impacts on how all of our systems are operating, we need to ensure that we are utilizing best practices from across the country to make voting as easy as possible,” Councilwoman Gilmore Richardson said.
During the recent June primary, which was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians voted. Out of the total number of votes cast, more than 1.4 million, or 51 percent, were done through mail-in ballots, making it for the first time in this state’s history that in-person voting was eclipsed by votes received by mail. More than 175,000 Philadelphians mailed in their ballots in the June election, representing 50.23 percent of the vote.
Because of the high volume of mail-in ballots, lawmakers are considering provisions to allow counties to pre-canvass the ballots they receive, especially considering the presidential election will bring a higher turnout. Pre-canvassing isn’t vote counting. Pre-canvassing simply allows counties to open envelopes, flatten and stack the ballots, and then lock them up securely, so results can be determined more quickly once tabulation begins on election day. Nearly two dozen states with vote-by-mail options already allow some form of pre-canvassing or tabulation because it can be done safely and securely.
The bipartisan coalition is led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who also served as Undersecretary and acting Secretary of the U.S. Army. All five of Pennsylvania’s former living governors have signed on to endorse the initiative, as have several other current and former elected officials and organizations.
About VoteSafe Pennsylvania
VoteSafe Pennsylvania is a bipartisan coalition comprised of community leaders, advocates, nonprofit organizations, former elected officials, and election experts who all want the same things—an efficient, accessible, secure mail-in ballot process and safe, in-person voting sites that ensure Pennsylvanians won’t have to risk their health for simply standing in line to vote. VoteSafe Pennsylvania is part of VoteSafe US, a national cross-partisan coalition of elections administrators and organizations that endorse the simple principle that every American has the right to vote safely amidst the pandemic. For more information, go to pa.votesafe.us.
Media Contact: Caitlin O’Connor