Voting rules, redistricting on minds of candidates
(EDITORS NOTE: Throughout the election season, candidates for nominations for the state legislature will be polled about issues pertinent to the voters. Responses will appear weekly in the Sun-Gazette.)
Each week the Sun-Gazette will feature responses from candidates running for state offices on issues pertinent to Lycoming County voters leading up to the primary election on June 2.
The candidates are: 23rd Senate, Gene Yaw (incumbent), Republican, and Jackie Baker, Democrat; 83rd House, Jeff Wheeland (incumbent), Republican, and Airneezer Page, Democrat; 84th House, Republicans Mike Dincher, Joe Hamm and David Hines, and Democrat Amanda Waldman.
Question: How should the state determine the redistricting process?
Yaw: “I think the redistricting process is fine. It represents the people from the districts they are in. It is always subject to challenge in the courts. I think by and large it’s fair. It takes into consideration the representatives who make these decisions. What if a lot of people move into one area, and you redistrict the area because it doesn’t have the right mix? Are you going to redistrict all counties so they are all equal?”
Baker: “I have been a member of Fair Districts PA since 2017. I support a constitutional amendment to form an independent commission to redraw the district lines so one party can’t decide the process. We need to get politicians out of that process. I have been on a campaign to end gerrymandering. If elected, I would pass bills to end gerrymandering and form a commission.”
Wheeland: “I think the same way it’s been done for 200 years or more. I believe that the spotlight has been shown on the process in the past and I don’t believe either party, depending on who is in power, would deviate from common sense boundaries. Both parties have done it in the past, but I believe the grassroots movement to stop the silliness has resulted in fair districts.”
“I believe we need an independent redistricting committee that will represent those in a district to determine what the boundaries are. The process as it stands now draws lines to favor one political party or another. There is a move to have a more equitable way to draw the lines so everyone is represented in the process. Whatever the makeup of the committee, it should represent those people. You can’t draw lines to represent one group of people.”
“I hear all this stuff about an independent committee. There is no such thing as independent. You can say you are and not be swayed by political ideals. But that’s not the case. It’s a tough one. I don’t see any better way than how it’s done now.”
“I believe we need to follow the state Constitution. It allows the Legislature to look at the districts. It includes representatives from the House, Senate and an individual at large, and they determine the boundaries for the districts. Ultimately, we need to follow the Constitution.”
“The bottom line is it has to be fair and square and if there really is a need to redistrict. Who is it going to benefit and why are we even redistricting? As long as it’s for the greatest good of all, not the few, that is the way to do it.”
“That should be done by an independent commission. It comes across to most people now as a partisan issue. Both political parties are guilty of it. It needs to be done in a fair manner. Any legislation that keeps this an independent process is what I would push for. To put something this important into the hands of a political party is a disservice to Pennsylvania citizens. We need to know our voices matter and our votes count.”
Should the state have tougher voter I.D. requirements. Why or why not?
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with requiring a person to have some kind of formal I.D. to vote. In virtually anything you do, you need an I.D. To perform one of the most important acts under our Constitution, requiring a person to have an I.D. is not too much to ask.”
“No. Access to the ballot box is one of most important rights for citizens. Voting should be made easier, but it should also be secure. I support making voter registration easier too because it helps with the voter registration process.”
“Yes they should. Identification is required in almost any transaction that a U.S. citizen participates ins, and it should include voting.”
“My question would be, why do they need tougher requirements? If the process is working so far, why pose extra hardships on the voters? It is a constitutional right to vote. If you have a valid I.D. or driver’s license, why do you need extra hoops to go through in order to vote? What evidence do we have there is voter fraud?
“I do believe we need to know who is voting. The problem is you have to stop corruption in the voting process. In many areas, people are moving in and moving out. They don’t always know those people at the polls. Voting is a privilege.”
“I believe everybody should be required to have an I.D. to vote. We show an I.D. for many other things in life. I would support requiring an I.D. to be shown to vote in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
“I think we should. I really do. We need an I.D. for everything else, why wouldn’t we need it for voting? To vote is one of the most important things you do.”
“I know for myself I need to have my voter I.D. to vote. I don’t know that it needs to be any stricter than that. Being in rural Pennsylvania, I know the poll workers, the neighbors, and they know me. I’m sure that it’s different in bigger polling places where people don’t know you. Still, I don’t want to see anyone lose their right to vote.”
Should the state make it easier to obtain a mail-in ballot?
“I don’t think we should make it easier. We’ve made it about as easy as possible. I guess the only way to make it easier is to deliver ballots to people. I just think voting is such a critical part of our society. It requires a minimal, not an extreme amount of effort. I think we have made it about as easy as we need to.”
“Yes. I requested my mail-in ballot and just received it in the mail. It is easier for people who can’t get to a polling place. But what if you have coronavirus pandemic issues or you may want to vote from your home? Voter fraud is very, very low. I have worked as an election poll worker and am very familiar with the election process. Mail-in ballots have really helped.”
“I’m not sure how much easier it could be made. My only hope is that the process doesn’t get abused.”
“Yes. My hope is everyone is safe with COVID-19. A mail-in ballot will ensure everyone is safe and not have to risk going out to vote. I believe everyone who is registered to vote should automatically be sent a ballot. They shouldn’t have to go online to have to obtain a ballot. You have so many people who don’t have computers or can’t use them. I understand you can still call for a ballot, but why not mail them to everyone?”
“No. It’s not that hard now. What would they even do to make it easier? I think if you care enough to vote, you will do it.”
“In 2019, the state Legislature passed election reforms to include mail-in applications. I believe this reform suffices for future elections in Pennsylvania. It is a lot easier now.”
“We are already doing it. It’s easier now than it used to be. I agree with mail-in ballots. A lot of people may think there will be issues. I think we should be able to go to the polls if we want to. We should have options.”
“Absolutely. We should be mailing these (ballots) to peoples’ houses. I know there are a lot of people who want to go to the polls and vote. But there are a lot of people who don’t want to risk going to the polls at this time.”