Tomorrow, Nov. 2nd is Election Day for local and judicial offices in Pennsylvania. Walking around Garden City, I’ve heard from people not planning to vote. Here’s some of the reasons,
“These offices aren’t important.” County councilors, township commissioners and school board members have narrower responsibilities than state and federal officials, but their role is increasingly important as state and federal governments are hamstrung by a Republican party that has no interest in governing. While the state and federal governments have been paralyzed over the last two years, the county has begun to de-privatize Pennsylvania’s only for-profit prison, created a new health department, purchased a vast new park, started new grant programs for greenspace and introduced a new voting system. The township continues to invest in its greenspaces and sidewalks and most recently decriminalized small amounts of marijuana – something that’s overwhelmingly popular but our state and federal officials seem unable to act on. Our school board has had to take the lead on dealing with the pandemic as state and federal officials floundered. They’ve had to seek out their own health advice and make the best decisions they can among bad options. These offices are very important to our daily lives – in some cases like public health, emergency services and policing they are matters of life and death.
“They’re all a bunch of liars.” I heard this one around Garden City a number of times this year. This year we’re electing our local officials. The people that are being called liars are our neighbors. Their children go to school with yours, they might go to your church or synagogue, they volunteer at the fire company and boy scouts. Some of them have spent decades in public service. These local officials are running for offices that are minimally compensated, if at all. They aren’t doing it for malevolent reasons, every one of them cares about this community. The frustration with a paralyzed political system is understandable, but very misplaced this year.
“It doesn’t matter who you vote for.” At the local level, officials are constrained in what they can do. The Democratic-run Board of Commissioners has paved the roads in the same way as the Republican-led board before them. The school board will continue to raise taxes due to underfunding of education by the state regardless of who runs it. But the candidates running tomorrow have very different values and priorities that they can act on. These officials oversee land use, policing, schools, parks and their values will reflect changes in how each of these are handled. I have watched how the meeting agendas are shaped by the values and priorities of those on the board. What is brought to the table is determined by who’s sitting there.
Polls will be open from 7 am until 8 pm tomorrow. If you applied for a mail-in ballot, you can deposit it at any of the drop boxes – remember to use the secrecy envelope. The nearest drop box is probably the one at Furness Library for most people. If you changed your mind about voting by mail, you can also bring your mail-in ballot (bring everything including envelopes), and it can be spoiled at your precinct to allow you to vote in person as well. If you don’t have your mail-in ballot, you’ll be allowed to vote provisionally.
Everyone will be given two ballots, A and B, one of which is two sided. The first ballot has all the offices up for election – most of our local officials are on the back. The second is the judicial retention ballot. Both will need to be scanned one at a time at the machine. Please do not throw away or leave behind one of the two pages, you’ll be making it harder for the election officials. I believe the scanners have been set to warn you about under-counts (you didn’t vote for enough candidates for an office) or an over-vote (you voted for too many). You can ignore the warnings, or you can take back the ballot and correct it if you wish.
You can look up your polling location at the state’s website. You can look up what’s on your ballot here. The League of Women Voters has the best site for looking up information on those running for office at their Vote411 site. I had more links at the guide I posted a few weeks ago.
So, please come out to vote tomorrow and bring your friends, neighbors and family too.