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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt men’s basketball rebounds, defeats Virginia Tech
By Jermaine Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor • February 24, 2024

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt men’s basketball rebounds, defeats Virginia Tech
By Jermaine Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor • February 24, 2024

Op-Ed | Many Pitt students are disenfranchised, upcoming bills can change that

I+Voted+stickers+at+an+early+voting+location+Thursday%2C+June+23%2C+2022%2C+in+Oklahoma+City.
AP Photo | Sue Ogrocki
“I Voted” stickers at an early voting location Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Oklahoma City.

You can say many things about Oakland, but one thing is hard to miss — it’s definitely a college neighborhood. Many of the restaurants, bars and other venues in the neighborhood are geared to Oakland’s student population. However, all these college students bring something else you might not expect, and that’s an independent voting base.

Since the Silent Generation, young people have tended to register as independents. The idea of being free to choose who and what you affiliate with is especially important to young people. That’s why you see so many different fashion styles in schools and on campuses. That’s why there are over 700 clubs at Pitt full of people seeing what activities they enjoy or what causes they care deeply about. That’s why friend groups on campus experience tumultuous change, too. 

Oakland and our rival State College area have 35% more independent voters than the state average, but unfortunately, Pennsylvania is one of nine states that doesn’t allow independent voters to vote in primaries. Since primaries determine around 90% of the elections in PA, such a law starts to look like disenfranchisement for a massive population. There are 1.2 million independent voters financing primaries, watching their friends go out to vote and being barred from the democratic process by the state. I’m one of them.

In April, a group of PA State Senators introduced a bill — SB400 — that would repeal closed primaries in the state and finally give all registered voters the chance to participate in their state’s elections. That same week, members of the PA House of Representatives introduced bills HB976 and HB979. These three bills declare that those registered as unaffiliated “shall be permitted to vote in primary elections.” I support these bills, as do the many other disenfranchised Pitt students that I have mentioned above. We need more young people voting. When more people are civically engaged, it increases the accountability of our public institutions and increases students’ social awareness.

These bills will be voted on in the next few months. For these bills to succeed, people need to write letters to their state legislators. I’ve written to my state legislators letting them know that I support these bills, and I suggest that other people interested in strengthening our democracy do so too. This would be an easy victory for us students and for the numerous other voters in our state.

Joshua Summers is a mechanical engineering major at Pitt.