Thursday, June 9, 2011

PA Ranks 40th in Helping Young People to Vote

A first ever report by "Rock the Vote" ranks each state on how effectively they prepare and help young people (18-29) to engage in the voting process.
Heather Smith, President of the non-partisan, non-profit organization, says it was founded to register and engage young people to make sure they "have the information they need to get out to the polls and have their voices heard."
The scorecard looked at state laws and policies and how they affected 3 criteria: voter registration, the voting process (how ballots are cast), and, preparation: civic education and making sure young people have the information they need to navigate the process.
According to Smith, the voting systems, policies and laws are different in every state...
"(They) really are not supporting the participation of today's electorate. So we wanted to look at what was working and put together a template, a benchmark to look at in order to call for a more modern election system in our country that supports the needs of today's young voters."
Pennsylvania tied with Rhode Island for 40th and the Commonwealth scored a "zero" in preparation..."There's no pre-registration at 16 or 17 when they are still in high school or get their driver's license. There's no required civic education that's tested in their schools," said Smith. She says Pennsylvania has not done a lot in terms of convenience voting...
"There's no early voting, allowing young people to cast a ballot on days that are not Tuesday, election day, which for young people who have school, who have classes, who work hourly jobs, it's hard for them to get away. So, expanding that time period is something the state (Pennsylvania) has yet to do."

Smith says the process could be made easier through online registration and same day registration at the polls.
Washington, Iowa and Montana were the highest scoring states while Connecticut, Virginia and South Carolina were at the bottom.