How 1.2 million voters in Pennsylvania could suddenly find their voice this spring

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Pa. Pressroom is a regular recap of politics in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. To submit tips and news leads, contact USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania state capital bureau reporter Bruce Siwy at bsiwy@gannett.com or on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @BruceSiwy.

Though David Thornburgh is optimistic, he's not predicting when Pennsylvania independents will be able to vote in the primary.

"Politics in general is like playing three-dimensional chess in the dark," he told the USA TODAY Network. "The question of when things are going to break, or who will do what when, are always fluid."

As chair of Ballot PA, Thornburgh has spent part of the past few years lobbying for Pennsylvania to hold open primaries, allowing unaffiliated voters to use either the Democratic or Republican ballots each spring.

Since altering its Election Code in 1937, the commonwealth has remained one of just seven states to use a closed primary system. This means that independents can't vote in the primaries held each spring to select the parties' nominees for the general election.

Momentum for open primaries appears to be growing: Bipartisan bills have been advanced in both the House and Senate, and all five of Pennsylvania's living former governors have endorsed the switch.

More: Erie's Tom Ridge, four other former Pa. governors push to open state's closed primaries

There are approximately 1.2 million independent voters in Pennsylvania, according to Thornburgh.

Pennsylvania's former governors observe as Gov. Josh Shapiro gives his inaugural address outside of the Capitol in Harrisburg on Jan. 17. Each of the commonwealth's five living former governors have endorsed the push for the state to start using an open primary system.
Pennsylvania's former governors observe as Gov. Josh Shapiro gives his inaugural address outside of the Capitol in Harrisburg on Jan. 17. Each of the commonwealth's five living former governors have endorsed the push for the state to start using an open primary system.

"We have some leadership to draw on there," he said. "These bills are highly popular with voters. We polled this statewide and overall 70% support (it)."

Ballot PA is a project of the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan organization first founded in 1904 to "combat corruption in Philadelphia."

Inside the Beltway

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has apparently found friends in Pennsylvania's senators.

Last week, Zelenskyy was in Washington, D.C., to speak with members of Congress. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) reacted with a strongly-worded statement about the war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We have a duty to stop Vladimir Putin and any other autocratic leaders who threaten the security of a sovereign nation," Casey said.

"The United States must remain fully committed to ensuring Ukraine has the resources to fight and win against Vladimir Putin and his military. Members of Congress have a choice to make: either you support the people of Ukraine and democracy, or you support Putin and autocracy. This is not a moment to back down to Putin, this is the time defeat him.”

His sentiment echoed that of fellow U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who joked last week that he'd stop wearing hoodies to work in favor of a suit if his colleagues in the House pledge to "fully support Ukraine."

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Congress have sent more than $75 billion in assistance. Ukraine is now by far the top recipient of American foreign aid, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

And the horse race

After making his U.S. Senate candidacy official last week, Republican David McCormick swiftly revealed a slate of prominent endorsements from within the party.

All eight of Pennsylvania's congressmen are supporting McCormick, according to his campaign. He's also backed by state leaders such as Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) and House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).

McCormick is attempting to unseat Casey, who is up for reelection in 2024.

Election 2024: Who is David McCormick? Here are 5 things to know about Bob Casey's possible GOP opponent

The bid marks McCormick's second attempt to represent Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C. He lost the GOP primary to Dr. Mehmet Oz last year by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Oz was ultimately defeated by Fetterman in his efforts to win this open seat.

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Does PA have an open primary? No, but ex-governors want to change that