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Bill To Allows Independents To Vote In Pa. Primary Gains Some Momentum

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A bill to allow independents to vote in the Pennsylvania primary got a favorable hearing in Harrisburg recently.

"It irritates me that independents can't vote in those elections," Pa. Sen. Lisa Boscola told the Senate State Government Committee.

Pennsylvania is a closed primary state.

Only Republicans can vote in the Republican primary and Democrats in the Democratic primary.

But Senate Bill 300 would change that.

"I think it's important that we have as many folks as possible participating in our primaries," Pa. Sen. Jay Costa told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.

A bipartisan bill introduced by Costa, the Senate Democratic leader, and Senate Republican leader Pa. Sen. Joe Scarnatii would allow unaffiliated voters -- those registered in no parties at all -- to choose a primary to vote in.

Scarnati, who was not available, said in a statement, "This bill is a bi-partisan piece of legislation introduced with the goal of giving over 740,000 registered unaffiliated Pennsylvania voters the right to participate in the primary election process."

In one-party areas, the primary is often the only election that counts, says University of Pittsburgh political science Prof. Kristin Kanthak.

"People are forced to pick a party, and I think a lot of politicians are hearing complaints from constituents about that," says Kanthak.

What makes Senate Bill 300 -- the bill that would allow independents to vote in the Pennsylvania primaries -- so unique is that it has the support -- indeed, the sponsorship -- of the leaders of both the Republican and Democratic party in the state Senate.

But, of course, it will take leadership in the state House to make this all happen.

Some political leaders don't like the idea of non-party people messing up their primaries,

For example, says Kanthak, the claim is "they'll cross over to the Republican side and pick a bad candidate on purpose."

But Kanthak says there's no real evidence that happens.

Senate leaders hope to pass this bill in June, but no word on if and when the House will act.

Governor Wolf has said he will sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

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