As a United States Marines veteran and Purple Heart recipient, I know that veterans are a proud and righteous group.
We fought together as compatriots, ignoring our differences and understanding that our actions were for the common good and to preserve democracy in our country.
Veterans genuinely value our country’s traditions and values, and many are reluctant to do anything that divides us as Americans, even if it means joining a political party.
Not surprisingly, veterans register as independents more than almost any other demographic. A 2017 Pew survey suggests that 49% of veterans nationwide identify themselves as independents. In Pennsylvania, this means that closed primaries are more likely to exclude veterans. After fighting for our values and traditions, closed primaries prevent many veterans from exercising their basic rights because they do not want to identify with any party.
This is wrong! We must allow all voters to vote in our primary, especially those who risked their lives to protect us and protect our values.
When I served in Vietnam, many of the combatants could not yet vote because the voting age was still 21. Our leaders have recognized and rectified this injustice. It’s time our leaders in Pennsylvania recognize that our closed primary code system implicitly excludes our veterans in the same way.
I urge you to call your legislature and ask them to support SB 690.
It’s time to lift closed primary elections in Pennsylvania. The status quo will only continue to exclude veterans and do a significant disservice to the very people who risked their lives to protect our democracy.
Jack Wagner served his country honorably as a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He is a Vietnam veteran and a Purple Heart recipient. Jack dedicated 28 years to public service: eight years as Pennsylvania Auditor General, ten years as Pennsylvania State Senator, and ten years on the Pittsburgh City Council before founding Pittsburgh Hires Veterans. Currently Mr. Wagner is the Regional Development Director for Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs and he is the Chair of the Sharing and Caring Golf Outing which raises revenue for hospital veterans. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Security Management with a minor in Business Administration from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.