I can’t vote, ask me why.
I am Jennifer Bullock, (Montgomery County PA), coordinator of Independent Pennsylvanians. We are a diverse group of non-partisan voters advocating for full voting rights of the over 1.2 million independents in Pennsylvania. We initiate campaigns to strengthen the voice and power of non-affiliated voters. We, as a collective, call for respect, recognition and election reforms that allow for our full participation.
Our group has a yearly ritual on primary day. We go out to polling sites and town squares, holding up signs such as
“I can't vote today. Ask me why?”
“I pay for the primaries, but I can’t vote”
“Closed Primaries = Taxation without Representation”
We have been at it for 15 years, standing outside on primary day, writing letters to the editor, talking to State Representatives and Senators, organizing in diverse communities, and talking to each other, as voters who care about our state and the health of our democracy.
Two quick stories I would like to share with you:
- A 21-year-old joined Independent Pennsylvanians in 2020 after she was shocked to find that she and her twin sister, newly registered to vote and eager to participate in our democracy, were both rejected at the polls. They were rejected, not because they were at the wrong site or did not have proper ID, but because they both were registered unaffiliated. Her grandparents saw the benefits of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, as African Americans gained voting protections, only to have their younger generation once again fight for the right to vote.
- During primary season as I walked through my town square, a State Representative was outside an election office, with lawn signs in hand ready to post throughout the neighborhood. I waved “hi”, he waved back and said, “remember to vote in the primary - and consider voting for me”. I responded, “I wish I could, I like your policies, but I can’t, I’m an independent’.
Who are we? Independents vote for candidates, not the party. I have voted for Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and independents. But only in the elections I am permitted access: general elections. I am like other independents who don't want to be forced to join a party to participate in the primary, which is essentially the first round of elections that often decide who the ultimate winner is.
We care about fairness, process, and pragmatics. We believe in de-coupling voting rights with party affiliation. We believe that parties should be participants in elections, not gatekeepers of them.
With our world in crisis, we need all hands-on deck. Excluding the diverse range of voices that make up Pennsylvania’s independents hurts our collective wellbeing. We are growing. We notice who speaks to us. We watch who continues to exclude us. And we vote in the general election.
With increased polarization and decreased voter turnout, the time is now for you to lead us in joining many states that have an open or non-partisan election system.
Let's make our first round of elections, the primary, open to independents. We help pay for them so let us in. Don’t require us to join a party to vote. Our yearly ritual of going to polls with our signs “I can’t vote today, ask me why” will no longer be needed. #letallvotersvote.
We are proud to support The PA Forward Party and its mission for free people, thriving communities and a vibrant democracy. Please ask your representative to support the two house bills (HB 976 and 979) and Senate Bill (SB 400).
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