Sen. Wayne D. Fontana: Voting by mail is the future

More than 5.3 million Pennsylvanians voted in the 2022 general election. More than 1.4 million of them voted by mail. More people voted in this Pennsylvania midterm election than in any previous midterm election, and it’s safe to say that voting by mail is a big reason.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed the most significant election law in Pennsylvania in more than 80 years. Law 77 allowed for the first time absentee voting without an excuse. This law was initiated by Republicans who controlled both chambers of the General Assembly. All but one Republican in the Legislature voted for the absentee ballot.

Despite this, many Republicans have made baseless allegations of fraud related to voting by mail in the 2020 presidential election. In Pennsylvania, many Republican leaders and candidates have done everything they can to discourage voters from voting by mail. And Republican voters listened. In this most recent election, more than 863,000 Democrats returned ballot-by-mail and ballot-by-mail records, compared with fewer than 266,000 Republicans.

But maybe things are starting to change in Pennsylvania.

The Tribune Review article “Some Republican Leaders Say GOP Must Adopt Mail Voting” (Nov. 13, TribLIVE) quotes some Republican leaders in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties as saying the party’s refusal to accept mail ballots as the reason candidates cite lost this year.

Utah passed legislation in 2012 that conducts all elections by mail. A ballot is mailed to all registered voters in Utah before each election, and ballots can be returned by mail or, in some counties, via Dropbox. Nearly 70% of eligible voters in Utah cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump won Utah by more than 20 points over Joe Biden.

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll released before the election found that nearly 90% of all Utahns were “confident” to “very confident” that their state and local government will conduct a fair and accurate election.

A Republican-controlled state, Utah, votes entirely by mail, safely and efficiently, and its residents trust the results.

This should not be a partisan issue. Postal voting allows more people to participate in democracy. Older voters, who may not be doing as well as they used to, can vote without leaving their homes. People who work or travel for work on Election Day can vote by mail and do not have to take time to exercise their constitutional right.

Many counties continue to struggle to find enough workers to work at polling stations on Election Day. Switching to postal voting eliminates this problem and saves the counties money in the process.

As a new Senate session begins in 2023, I will reintroduce legislation that would conduct all elections entirely by mail. My legislation will also allow ballots to be collected in advance of Election Day so that ballot counting will be faster and more efficient.

I am confident that the Republican leadership in Harrisburg is listening to their local leaders and recognizing the benefits of voting by mail. Postal voting is efficient, safe and secure. Regardless of party affiliation, we should all want as many people as possible to participate in democracy. Let’s stand up and pass another major reform to our electoral laws that gives us the best chance of doing so.