Too many voters took the 5th, and we dont mean casting ballots
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.
Polling places were not exactly overrun with prospective voters Tuesday. Only one in five of those eligible to vote showed up.