The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee today passed legislation easing the way for increased voting by mail and won the praise of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

"In recent election cycles, Pennsylvanians have shown that they want to vote," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "This bill makes voting less burdensome."

House Bill 333, introduced by committee Chair Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), passed by a vote of 12-9. All Democrats present and Republican Chairman Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre County) voted in favor of the measure.

The bill would amend the state constitution to allow all voters to be eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Under current state law, only voters who are out of their municipalities for work purposes or who are too ill to go to the polling place can vote absentee.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 28 states have some form of voting by mail, which is also known as no-excuse absentee balloting.

"States as diverse as California, Utah, Oklahoma, and Vermont have voting by mail," Hoover said. "This is a nationwide, bi-partisan issue."

HB 333 does not eliminate Election Day voting at polling places.

Because it is an amendment to the state constitution, the legislation needs to pass both chambers of the General Assembly in consecutive sessions and then must be passed by the commonwealth’s voters.

"We need less barriers to voting,” Hoover said. “This bill will knock down some of those barriers.”

The favorable committee vote comes one day after the Senate State Government Committee held over a bill requiring photo identification to vote, SB 514. The ACLU of Pennsylvania is working with a coalition of non-partisan organizations in opposition to that legislation.