Pa.’s top election official, Wolf administration stress participation in Nov. 8 general election

‘It’s participation that makes our democracy flourish,’ acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said

By: - September 13, 2022 3:36 pm

Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman announces a recount in the 2022 Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate race during a press conference in the Capitol Media Center on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Commonwealth Media Services)

Members of the Wolf administration on Tuesday urged eligible Pennsylvanians to participate in the upcoming November general election, reminding individuals that the right to vote should not be taken for granted.

Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman applauded a recent executive order from Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who leaves office in January 2023, that expands voter registration access and information at seven state agencies during a Capitol press conference. She celebrated past efforts to enhance voting access through online resources, Spanish and Chinese language materials, a year-round voter hotline, and the 2019 legislative expansion for no-excuse, mail-in voting.

Stephanie Sun, executive director of the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, and Luz Colon, executive director of the Commission on Latino Affairs, celebrated efforts to address language barriers by providing resources for voters.

And with an election less than two months away, Chapman expressed a commitment to remove remaining barriers to the ballot box, beginning with expanding voter education efforts — “especially the 1.7 million people who are eligible but not yet registered to vote” in Pennsylvania, she told reporters.

“Regardless of their political affiliation or what corner of the commonwealth they live in or where they were born or whether they have a disability, we want to encourage them to participate in our civic life,” Chapman said. “Because it’s participation that makes our democracy flourish.”

Rafael Alvarez Febo, executive director of the Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, described encouraging neighbors to participate in the electoral process as “the biggest act of kindness.” He added that the Nov. 8 election is a “watershed moment for marginalized people to fight back against bigotry and reclaim space within our democracy.”

In Pennsylvania, half of the 50-member Senate and all 203 members of the House of Representatives are up for election, with voters getting to decide who gets to draft policy in Harrisburg. And with Wolf leaving office, the upcoming election could determine what becomes state law.

“Over the last three years, while I’ve been executive director, the Legislature has tried to pass multiple anti-LGBTQ-specific and, more specifically, anti-transgender legislation,” Febo said, referring to proposals that would bar transgender athletes from participating in sports. “These targeted pieces of legislation were meant to intimidate and silence LGBTQ people, and the only failsafe has been Gov. Wolf’s veto pen.”

As more women register to vote in the aftermath of the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Moriah Hathaway, executive director of the Commission for Women, noted that abortion access and reproductive health care are on the ballot in Pennsylvania this November. She added that it’s important for people to remember that some groups — including women of color — did not gain the right to vote until after the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Less than 60 years ago, Black people were given the right to vote,” LaDeshia Maxwell, executive director of the Commission on African American Affairs, said. “Our elders fought long and hard for this right, and if it weren’t important, so many people wouldn’t be working so hard to limit our access to the polls. This is a time for us to show what we stand for as a community.”

She added that decisions surrounding gun violence, education, community investments, and health come down to leadership.

“We have a say in who our leaders are,” Maxwell said. “We have a say in who we see in city hall, the Capitol, and the White House.”

To participate in the Nov. 8 general election — in which U.S. Senate, the governor, and legislative seats are on the ballot — eligible Pennsylvania residents, those 18 and older, have until Oct. 24 to register and update their registration. Additionally, voters have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 1 to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot.

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