Today is the big day!
From 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., voters will head to the polls to vote for one of five presidential contenders - Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.
While Democrats and Republicans cast their votes, 1 in 8 Pennsylvanian voters will be kept away from the polls. Those registered as Independents or with a minor party will play no part in picking a nominee.
Pennsylvania is one of 11 states with closed primaries, in which only those registered as a Republican or Democrat can vote in the primary election.
Proponents of closed primaries argue the system allows for stronger party organization, but in reality, it inhibits over 1 million eligible Pennsylvania voters from deciding the lineup for the battle for the White House in November.
According to Pennsylvania Department of State records, 665,489 PA voters are registered as independent and 419,922 are registered to minor parties.
In the interest of increasing voter participation and giving voters flexibility, Pennsylvania should reevaluate this practice and adopt an open primary in time for the next election.
For starters, many voters are unaware of Pennsylvania’s closed primary status and do not know they must register with one of the major parties to vote on Tuesday, especially those who are new to the voting process.
Others, especially young Independents, do not want to change their affiliation solely on principle.
However, this election has shown that many still want to participate in narrowing down the pool of candidates, and why should a closed primary system stop them?
This issue doesn’t just apply to those not affiliated with a major party. Even those registered as a Democrat or Republican would benefit. They will be able to enter the polls and vote for the candidate they think is a better fit for the job, not only those running for their party’s nomination.
Voters would also be able to vote across parties for candidates running in different races.
For example, if a voter is registered as a Republican he or she can vote for Donald Trump in the presidential race and also for Joe Sestak, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate. Our current system would force the voter to strictly vote within the Republican pool for each race.
In an open primary, a registered Republican fed up with establishment politics could vote for Donald Trump in the presidential race and a Democrat running against incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. However, our current system would force the voter to strictly vote within the Republican Party, where Toomey is running unopposed.
While we’re in the process of revamping the election system, we should also close the 30-day gap between voter registration and the primary election. This year, those interested in voting were required to register by March 28.
Again, proponents argue there is plenty of time to register before the primary, but those who may change their mind about which candidate they support or decide they want to participate at the last minute would not be eligible.
Suppose a Cruz supporter attended the Bernie Sanders rally on campus last week and discovered he actually knew little about his candidate’s platform and Bernie’s message resonated more with his interests. Because he is registered Republican and the registration deadline has passed, he is unable to vote for Sanders.
With an online registration system in place, we have the means to allow voters to register up until the week before, if not the day before, the primary election.
These are common-sense measures to reform the exclusive primary process and could put an end the madness of restricting voters from fulfilling their civic duty.
Since its establishment, the United States of America has had a history of limiting the voice of citizens come election time, from the requirement of owning land to the Jim Crow laws to the more recent voter I.D. laws.
It seems as though our politicians are unaware that we now live in the 21st century, and our voices are only getting louder. It’s about time voter suppression ends and the polls be open to all.