Senator Fontana visited American Legion Post 496 in Sheraden on Sunday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, and participated in a brief ceremony honoring the Post’s veterans. He is joined here by Rep. Dan Deasy and Post 496 Commander Don Scholz.
During the months leading up to the General Election, I received dozens of emails and inquires as to why Pennsylvania does not have early voting. Several of the state’s big cities and local communities that make up the Commonwealth are becoming more progressive and many feel that our Election Code should reflect this evolution. I couldn’t agree more. The fact that more than two-thirds of the United States has some form of early voting is evidence of the increasing popularity around this option and demonstrates how Pennsylvania lags behind in presenting our residents with additional voting opportunities.
When the United States was first founded, it has been documented that voting was often held over several days so that voters in rural areas would have enough time to go to the polls. It wasn’t until 1845 when the federal government set a single day – the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November – as Election Day. Fast forward to the late 1970’s, California was the first to adopt a type of early voting called “no-excuse absentee balloting” after the state recognized that many individuals were simply lying about their reason as to why they were unable to make it to the polling place on Election Day. In 1987, Texas became the first state to offer in-person early voting. Nearly three decades after Texas removed barriers for their residents, Pennsylvania is still adhering to a federal law set in the 1800’s.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that early voting period ranges from as much as 45 days before an election to as little as four days with the average length being 19 days. Early voting provides citizens with more options to make it easier and convenient to participate in the process. Standing in long lines is often eliminated and if one or several voting machines malfunction, people will still have the ability to come back to cast their vote at another time. It can also be argued that Pennsylvania’s single-day voting disenfranchises certain occupations, especially those with shifts that are longer than eight hours, including EMT personnel and paramedics, nurses, doctors, and firefighters or even college students with a packed schedule. And what about those who have an unexpected personal or family emergency or death? Early voting could also alleviate some issues that may arise if someone shows up to the wrong polling place.
There is also the dispute that early voting favors one political party over another since some states have reported that Democrats tend to utilize early voting more so than Republicans. Regardless, eligible registered citizens are entitled to vote no matter which political party they are from so why continue to uphold laws that put more barriers in the way of those who want to exercise their right?
Pennsylvania has no early voting and the only circumstances that allow one to vote via absentee ballot are for those who will be absent from their municipality due to their occupation requiring them to be elsewhere or because an individual is unable to vote in person because of illness, physical disability, or religious holiday.
For two legislative sessions, I have introduced a version of Senate Bill 440 (SB 440) that would allow voting to take place 15 days prior to Election Day. The polling places would be geographically located and open on both weekdays and weekends so that electors are provided an equal opportunity to participate in the process. In neither of the legislative sessions have my bills been brought up by the majority party to be considered. Additionally, I held a hearing on this matter in Pittsburgh in November 2016 to bring light to the issue.
During the 2016 presidential election, about one-third of the total votes cast in the United States were cast early. In this year’s general election, 36 million votes took place during early voting. These numbers make it clear citizens of the United States are becoming more engaged in the political process and I feel that it is imperative that Pennsylvania starts passing laws with the goal of increasing voter turnout. For our democracy to function properly and to be most efficient, the commonwealth needs to break down as many roadblocks as possible between people and making their voices heard and one way to achieve this is by passing early voting legislation.
Did You Know…
Did you know that as of January 30, 2018, 34 states and the District of Columbia permitted no-excuse early voting and another three states utilized all-mail voting systems?
No Place for Hate
Last week, posters containing hate propaganda that came from a white nationalist organization were pasted to multiple places around the Brookline community. Posting messages that advocate hatred and violence in our community is despicable and will not be tolerated. We cannot welcome Patriot Front or any white supremacist group into our community. Following the tragic shooting in Squirrel Hill last month, we can no longer excuse or ignore neo-Nazi propagandists and the hatred they spew. I strongly discourage them from their recent spreading of hateful propaganda in the Brookline neighborhoods. I will continue to support and encourage law enforcement, Duquesne Light and the Port Authority to investigate Patriot Front’s actions and to catch and prosecute those who seek to spread this sickness in our communities. I also urge citizens to cooperate fully with the police as they investigate this incident.
LIHEAP is Open
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website (www.compass.state.pa.us). You can also pick up an application in my district offices or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to the Allegheny County Assistance Office, located at 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits for this season are as follows:
After your application is received you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive. Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel provider and will be credited to your heating account. Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
The City of Pittsburgh, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), invites you to attend a public meeting being held for the Downtown Bike Facilities Project on Wednesday, Nov. 28. This meeting offers an opportunity to view the proposed cycle tracks on Stanwix Street from Third Avenue to Penn Avenue, and Penn Avenue Extension/Liberty Avenue from Stanwix Street to Point State Park. This project will affect parking and travel lanes. The project team will also be available to answer questions.
The Nov. 28 public meeting will run from 6 – 7 p.m. in the Academic Hall at Point Park University, located at 201 Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh. For more information, please contact Kristin Saunders, the City of Pittsburgh’s Principal Transportation Planner at Kristin.Saunders@pittsburghpa.gov.
Get Stuffed with Love
Rotary Clubs of Bethel-St. Clair and Northern Allegheny, and Holy Assumption of St. Mary Orthodox Church are partnering again this year to cook and assemble Thanksgiving meals to those in need, and Pittsburgh Police officers will deliver food on Thanksgiving Day. Over the last 15 years, this event has grown from feeding 250 people who are homeless, shut-ins, or disabled, to over 3,700 people.
Anyone in need of a Thanksgiving meal can contact their local police zone officer as listed below no later than Tuesday, Nov. 20:
Zone 1: Officer Sylvester Wright or Officer Darrick Payton, 412-323-7201
Zone 2: Officer Antoine Davis or Officer Eldridge Kimbrough, 412-255-2848
Zone 3: Officer Christine Luffey, 412-488-8425
Zone 4: Officer Victoria Butch, 412-422-6559
Zone 5: Officer Michael Gay or Officer Jeff Crawford, 412-665-3770
Zone 6: Officer Kenneth Stevwing, 412-937-3051
If you don’t need a meal but are interested in donating, please call one of the contacts listed above for more information.
The OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program is hosting two training sessions for older adults interested in volunteering as tutors. OASIS is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains older adults (50+) to tutor children (grades K-4) in Pittsburgh Public Schools and Woodland Hills School District in reading and writing. OASIS has tutors in over 32 schools and serves 200 students yearly.
Training sessions will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27 and Thursday, Nov. 29 from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the OASIS office, located in the Duquesne Light Building, Suite 525 at 411 Seventh Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. All materials and clearances are provided by OASIS.
For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please contact John D. Spehar, Pittsburgh OASIS Tutoring Program Director at 412-393-7648 or email@example.com. OASIS is an affiliate of the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.
Power of Work Awards
Do you know a business that hires people with disabilities or a criminal background? Do you know a business that goes the extra mile to help someone find or keep a job?
Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania announced recently that the Power of Work Awards is open to all businesses in the Western Pennsylvania counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland. The goal of the Power of Work Awards program is to recognize the extraordinary workforce development efforts of local businesses, thus resulting in a better quality of life for individuals with personal challenges and their families. Each year, the Power of Work Awards welcomes hundreds of professionals to an awards ceremony and luncheon to celebrate the accomplishments of the winners. Attendees enjoy a tremendously inspirational program as the award winners and their dedicated employees share powerful stories of perseverance, courage and achievement. Since the program’s inception in 1997, Goodwill has presented Power of Work Awards to more than 50 different southwestern Pennsylvania area businesses.
If you are interested in nominating a business for a Power of Work Award, please visit https://www.goodwillswpa.org/powerofwork to complete the online form. All nominations must be completed by Dec. 3.
According to a Daniel Burns/Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh publication, the Monongahela River gets its name from an American Indian phrase meaning “steep, falling banks” and is only one of two rivers in the western hemisphere that flows north. From the beginning to the middle of the 20th century, the Monongahela River was the busiest waterway in the world.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
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1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216