Sens. Laughlin, Boscola Introduce Open Primary Legislation

HARRISBURG – Sens. Dan Laughlin (R-49) and Lisa Boscola (D-18) have introduced legislation to repeal closed primaries and allow registered independent voters who have checked “no affiliation” or “none” on their voter registration form to vote in primary elections.

“Participation in Pennsylvania’s primary elections is often very low, with that low turnout, at least in part, attributed to voters feeling disenfranchised by the extremes of both major parties, who have taken control of our primary process,” said Laughlin. “Limited primary participation isn’t a way to produce good options from which to choose in general elections. Giving more people the opportunity to have a voice in their representation is an important step toward ensuring democracy.”

Senate Bill 400 will allow registered voters who are unaffiliated, have no registered party or are registered Independent to cast their vote on either the Republican or Democrat ballot. Voters who are registered with a party will continue to be required to vote on their respective ballots.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, more than 1.28 million registered voters are not currently registered with the largest two political parties, though many of them used to be registered Republican or Democrat.

In the Senate, SB 400 has gained bipartisan support.

“We are getting members from both parties on this bill, because they agree, our current closed primary system is confusing and unfair” Boscola said. “When registered voters are turned away at the polls, because they chose the ‘wrong’ party affiliation, then something is broken.”

“Pennsylvania is one of nine states that maintain completely closed primaries,” Laughlin said. “While some may ignore what most other states have done and express concern about how allowing that many unaffiliated voters into primary elections could affect our other political parties, I think this will ultimately benefit the parties. Open primaries will produce better candidates capable of speaking to broader portions of the electorate.

“That in turn is good for all of us as it will help to de-polarize our politics which are increasingly hamstrung by partisan gridlock caused by the more extreme ends of the political spectrum.

“SB 400 isn’t some grand scheme to skew primary election results to affect the fall general election outcome. This is simply about engaging the voters and letting them vote. For us to prevent them from doing that, thereby ignoring their opinions and voices, is just wrong. Addressing that wrong is one of the most important things that can be done as a lawmaker.”

You can view a video of the SB 400 introduction news conference here. For more state-related news and information, constituents can visit Laughlin’s website at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @senatorlaughlin.


Contact: David Kozak   717-787-8927

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