Too many vot­ers took the 5th, and we dont mean cast­ing bal­lots

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION -

Y ou would think that if only the Demo­cratic can­di­dates showed up to cast bal­lots Tues­day, it would mark an in­crease in turnout. You would be wrong. While it would also be wrong to ask, “What if they gave an elec­tion and no­body came?” in re­al­ity it wouldn’t be that far off the mark.

And it re­mains a stain on our demo­cratic process.

Here in Delaware County, only about one in five el­i­gi­ble vot­ers made their way to the polls Tues­day. The ac­tual num­bers were 22 per­cent for Democrats, and 21 per­cent for the GOP.

It’s even more sur­pris­ing in light of the fact that Democrats were look­ing at one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing Con­gres­sional races in years. No less than 10 names ap­peared on the bal­lot for the newly minted 5th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, cre­ated by the state Supreme Court af­ter it tossed out the old dis­tricts as a clas­sic case of a par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der.

The new 5th in­cludes the en­tire county, plac­ing the old map that split the county be­tween the 7th and 1st Dis­tricts into the dust­bin of his­tory.

And vot­ers of both par­ties should have been en­er­gized by the no­tion of com­pet­ing for a va­cant seat, cour­tesy of for­mer Rep. Pat Mee­han, who in­di­cated he would not seek re-elec­tion af­ter be­com­ing en­snarled in a scan­dal in­volv­ing a sex ha­rass­ment com­plaint filed against him by a for­mer staffer and his use of tax­payer funds to set­tle the mat­ter.

It clearly mo­ti­vated Demo­cratic can­di­dates, with a record num­ber seek­ing the party’s nod. The orig­i­nal herd of 14 was fi­nally whit­tled down to the 10 that ap­peared on the bal­lot. And county Democrats were able to fend off the no­tion of see­ing the nom­i­na­tion snagged by a Philly Democrat. But it ap­par­ently didn’t do all that much to en­tice vot­ers. They again stayed away in droves.

On the Repub­li­can side, granted they did not have the same siz­zle as Democrats when it comes to the 5th. They united be­hind a sin­gle can­di­date, for­mer county as­sis­tant dis­trict at­tor­ney and deputy state at­tor­ney gen­eral Pearl Kim. She was un­op­posed on the pri­mary bal­lot.

But Repub­li­cans were fac­ing an­other cru­cial ques­tion. They were se­lect­ing a can­di­date for gov­er­nor, pick­ing some­one to chal­lenge in­cum­bent Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf in the fall. Con­ser­va­tive fire­brand York County Sen. Scott Wag­ner won out over busi­ness­man Pete Mango and at­tor­ney Laura Ellsworth.

And even here in Delco, where the GOP has been known for years for their abil­ity to get vot­ers to the polls, four out of ev­ery five vot­ers didn’t bother to take part in the process.

Some might point to weather as a fac­tor. Yes, the usual post-work rush to the polls likely was scut­tled by an in­tense round of thun­der­storms that rum­bled across the re­gion just as work­ers were get­ting out of the of­fice.

But the fore­cast was not ex­actly a se­cret. And next to no one both­ered to hit the polls dur­ing the morn­ing or for much of the day.

So what is the an­swer? Surely Penn­syl­va­nia does not do any­one any fa­vors when it comes to vot­ing. The state sim­ply in­sists on mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult than it should be to take part in the process.

Things that could be ex­plored should in­clude eas­ier voter regis­tra­tion, ex­tended hours or days of vot­ing, and even the abil­ity to vote by mail or on­line.

But is it re­ally too much to ask cit­i­zens – on one day – to pry them­selves away from their phones or lap­tops and ex­er­cise their most pre­cious con­sti­tu­tional right? Ap­par­ently so. A lot of peo­ple are brand­ing the wave wash­ing over the na­tion as the Year of the Wo­man.

But we won­der if in­stead we should not be wor­ried about the Year of No One. As in no one vot­ing. Our polling places, at al­most ev­ery elec­tion that does not in­clude a pres­i­den­tial race, have turned into no-man’s land.

It doesn’t mat­ter that these lo­cal races, for Congress, the state Leg­is­la­ture, county and mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment likely have more effect on res­i­dents’ every­day lives than the in­hab­i­tant of Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue. Vot­ers just don’t turn out the way they used to.

Not even a jam-packed bal­lot for an open seat in Congress was enough to in­spire peo­ple to head to the polls.

When it comes to ex­er­cis­ing their civic rights, too many peo­ple in­stead took the Fifth.

Lit­er­ally.

PETE BAN­NAN – DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Polling places were not ex­actly over­run with prospec­tive vot­ers Tues­day. Only one in five of those el­i­gi­ble to vote showed up.

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