Primary Election Day is upon us, but more than one million registered voters in Pennsylvania cannot take part.

That’s because Pennsylvania is one of only nine states still holding a closed primary.

Now, a state senator from Erie is trying to change that.

Nearly a year ago, Republican State Senator Dan Laughlin introduced Senate Bill 690. Laughlin’s legislation would allow independent voters to choose a primary party to take part in.

“It’s really, it’s meant to just be more inclusive for our voters. Pennsylvania has, I think, 1.2 million unaffiliated voters right now, and quite frankly I think we need their voice in our primaries,” said State Senator Dan Laughlin, (R), District 49.

Pennsylvania currently is one of only nine states still holding a closed primary, which means registered Democrats can only vote for Democrats, and registered Republicans can only vote for Republicans.

Independents have no pull in the political process, meaning tax paying residents must be registered with one of the two major parties to exercise their right in a primary.

“The argument is that closed primaries allow parties to have meaning. If you have to be a member of a political party, then it is your party’s voters who are deciding on the candidate that is being nominated,” said Dr. Joe Morris, political analyst, Mercyhurst University.

The biggest hurdle now appears to be party leaders in the commonwealth holding on to the tradition of party members, making sure to hold candidates from their party accountable, and only the party they signed up for.

“The party line, I think, for both Democrats and Republicans is that they don’t want non party members deciding who the candidates are going into the general election through this primary process. But when you look at these voters, many of them lean and are committed to candidates on one side or the other,” said Jim Wertz, Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party.

When Laughlin first introduced this bill, Pa. had around 800,000 people registered as independent. That number is now pushing 1.2 million.

“Right now, about a third of registered voters in Pennsylvania are registered independent. More and more younger voters, 18 to 25-year-olds, are registering as independent, not because they are disaffected with the party, but because they have a breadth of view points, and they look for candidates that represent those, and they don’t always feel that they find that within a party system,” said Wertz.

A system that has already changed and working now in the majority.

“There’s a good chance that in the future we will move from a closed primary system to an open. Whether that’s going to be the result of efforts we’re seeing right now, or if it will be sometime in the future, remains to be seen. But undeniably, the trend in the United States has been to move away from caucuses toward primaries, are open primaries are replacing closed primaries,” said Dr. Morris.

While this isn’t the first push for this change in the commonwealth, Senator Laughlin is hopeful next May everyone registered in PA can vote.

“If you are a registered independent or unaffiliated voter when you’re watching us and it’s the day before the primary, I wish that you could have been here for us to vote in this, but maybe next year,” said Laughlin.

For news delivered right to yousubscribe to JET 24/FOX 66/YourErie.com’s breaking, daily news & severe weather email lists

Laughlin said Senate Bill 690 could move out of committee by June, and then head to the Senate and then the House with hopes for a vote by this Fall.