Re­forms could boost state voter turnout

The Phoenix - - OPINION -

On. Nov. 6, cit­i­zens across Penn­syl­va­nia will do some­thing many of their fel­low pa­tri­ots across the na­tion have been do­ing for weeks.


They will go to their lo­cal polling places and cast their bal­lots.

Vot­ers in the Key­stone State will be se­lect­ing a gover­nor, U.S. Se­na­tor, mem­bers of Congress, ev­ery mem­ber of the Penn­syl­va­nia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and half of the state Se­nate.

But un­less you are vot­ing via ab­sen­tee bal­lot, in Penn­syl­va­nia you have from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 6 to ex­er­cise your pre­cious con­sti­tu­tional right.

Maybe that’s one of the rea­sons for the em­bar­rass­ingly low num­bers that have been recorded in re­cent non-pres­i­den­tial year elec­tions.

Last spring’s pri­mary again saw vot­ers stay away in droves. In some coun­ties, only 22 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble Democrats both­ered to show up at the polls. On the GOP side, it was even worse, even though vot­ers were se­lect­ing a can­di­date to chal­lenge in­cum­bent Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Only 21 per­cent of Repub­li­cans cast a vote.

It’s be­come the same, sad tune that seems to haunt ev­ery pri­mary and off-year elec­tion. In other words, if we aren’t vot­ing for pres­i­dent, a lot of cit­i­zens don’t bother to vote at all.

There are those who don’t nec­es­sar­ily be­lieve that is a bad thing. They rightly re­vere vot­ing as a priv­i­lege as well as a right guar­an­teed by the Con­sti­tu­tion, and firmly be­lieve it is not too much to ask for a wellinformed cit­i­zenry to take that duty se­ri­ously.

Un­for­tu­nately, the re­sult is a minis­cule turnout, with a tiny frac­tion of the elec­torate de­cid­ing who should rep­re­sent us.

There are sev­eral ways to rein­vig­o­rate vot­ers. In the pri­mary, Penn­syl­va­nia should stop block­ing those reg­is­tered as In­de­pen­dent from tak­ing part in the process.

For gen­eral elec­tions, why doesn’t Penn­syl­va­nia al­low its res­i­dents to join the more than seven mil­lion peo­ple across the coun­try who have al­ready voted?

It’s time for that to change. The state should join those states that of­fer ex­tended vot­ing, as well as the abil­ity to vote on­line or by mail. At min­i­mum, ex­tend the vot­ing hours.

Iron­i­cally, this midterm elec­tion is of­fer­ing more siz­zle than usual – but the heat is not be­ing turned up by any Penn­syl­va­nia can­di­dates.

The gover­nor’s race be­tween Wolf and Repub­li­can chal­lenger for­mer state Sen. Scott Wag­ner has been a sleeper. Wolf, com­fort­ably ahead in both the polls and fundrais­ing, has de­clined of­fers to de­bate, aside from the sham fo­rum that was hosted by game show celebrity Alex Tre­bek.

Ken Krawchuk is the Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date.

The only sign of life this cam­paign has of­fered was the bizarre threat by Wag­ner to stomp on Wolf’s face with golf spikes. Un­for­tu­nately, that tone has proven par for the course.

In the U.S. Se­nate race, in­cum­bent Demo­crat Robert P. Casey Jr., also com­fort­ably ahead in the polls, prob­a­bly proved why in­cum­bents so of­ten duck and hide. His cam­paign pushed a video ac­cus­ing chal­lenger Repub­li­can U.S. Rep. Lou Bar­letta of vot­ing to elim­i­nate health cov­er­age for pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, cut­ting off care for ba­bies bat­tling can­cer. He ap­par­ently was un­aware that Bar­letta’s tod­dler grand­son is also bat­tling the dis­ease. He pulled the ad in Bar­lettta’s Al­len­town mar­ket.

Delco’s own Dale Kerns pro­vides a Lib­er­tar­ian choice.

In races for the U.S. House, it ap­pears Democrats are headed for easy wins in both Ch­ester and Delaware coun­ties, where Chrissy Houla­han looks primed to win the 6th Dis­trict seat over Greg McCauley, and Mary Gay Scan­lon holds a size­able lead over Repub­li­can Pearl Kim in the 5th.

The big­gest Repub­li­can name in this elec­tion is not on the bal­lot.

The mid-terms are widely be­ing viewed as be­ing a ref­er­en­dum on the first two years of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency.

The pres­i­dent seems to have em­braced the chal­lenge, and is stok­ing his base with a non­stop se­ries of ral­lies aimed at staving off what many are pre­dict­ing will be a Blue Wave that will see the U.S. House fall to the Democrats, and per­haps the Se­nate as well.

But if you’ve made other plans on Nov. 6 and aren’t vot­ing via ab­sen­tee bal­lot, you’re out of luck.

Be­cause Penn­syl­va­nia seems con­tent to watch the world — and much needed elec­tion re­form — pass them by.

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