Part 2 of this series covers the Constitutional Amendment in depth and can be viewed here.
This post describes how I’m filling out my personal ballot, and why. The 2017 ballot in Chester County is two pages, so remember to fill out both pages! Your ballot will likely look different from mine as there are over 200 separate ballots in the county, based on hyperlocal races. Make sure to use an optical scan ballot. At many polling places, you will be handed one. At some, you will be given the choice between optical scan and touch screen. There is NO PAPER TRAIL for touch screens and you should not use them.
Your first choice will be whether to select a straight party vote, or to vote for individual candidates.
I will not be voting straight party. This is because on my ballot, and on many others, there are people running on both the Democratic and Republican tickets, and on some ballots that candidate is an actual Democrat and on others, that candidate is an actual Republican. I want to be sure that none of my votes are going for actual Republicans. That’s a personal preference on my part, you may feel differently. In addition, you may choose to vote a a Green or Independent candidate on your ballot, and “Straight Party” would preclude that action. Next, the Judges.
Personally, I will be voting for the complete set of Democratic judicial candidates. If you want information on the judges’ backgrounds, read this. For me, the choice is simple: Democratic judges are interested in doing away with the current gerrymandering that has led to an unfair distribution of state voting districts. There is an active Pennsylvania state case that a current Republican judge is refusing to hear until after the Wisconsin case in front of the Supremes is settled. His reasoning is that he needs that decision first, but that is counter to the last state gerrymandering case heard over a decade ago.
We need judges concerned with the law, and not with politics. In addition, these folks have a lot of endorsements from groups I support. Bottom line, do your research and pick the judges you believe would best serve our state.
Next are the county row officers. I am supporting the Democratic slate because I know all of these people, and their backgrounds, and believe each is far better qualified for the positions than their competition. You can read their candidate statements in the ICC Voter Guide. Thus, I am supporting Patricia Maisano for Treasurer, Margaret Reif for Controller, Yolanda Van de Krol for Clerk of Courts, and Christina Vandepol for Coroner. If any of these candidates win, it will be the first time in the history of Chester County that a Democrat has ever held any of these row offices.
The rest of the front page of your ballot, and possibly a bit on the back, are local offices: Magisterial Justices (frequently called District Judges), Mayors, Borough Councils, Supervisors and School Board members. You should research these folks. They’re not always what they seem to be. Once again, you can use the ICC Voter Guide for information on those candidates who have submitted information. If your local official has not submitted a candidate statement, and you cannot to which party someone running as “Democratic/Republican” is registered, leave a comment with the name of that candidate, and we will let you know.
On the back of your ballot are first the Judge of Elections (JoE) and Inspector of Elections boxes. A lot of these are blank throughout the county, although some have one name, and some have two. The JoE race is straightforward: if there are no names, the person with the most write-ins wins; with one name, that person will most likely win (barring a serious write-in effort) and if there are two names, the person with the most votes will win. Again, check the ICC Voter Guide for information on these candidates.
The Inspector of Elections is different. If there are two choices, and most ballots do not have two names, the one with the higher vote tally will become the Majority Inspector, and the one with the lower vote tally will become the Minority Inspector. But if there is only one name, that person will become the Majority Inspector and there will be no Minority Inspector. Thus, if there is only one name listed, or none, you can write in your name, and get a dozen of your friends, family and neighbors in your precinct to do the same, and you will win the position.
The JoE and Inspectors are important positions for keeping elections clean and honest. The Inspectors are responsible for the counts at the end of the election, prior to the ballots being delivered to Voter Services for validation.
The next choice you’ll need to make is for the Proposed Constitutional Amendment. JUST VOTE NO! You can see my rationale here. Other people have different rationales for a NO! vote, but there is no reasonable reason to vote yes. Only vote yes if you don’t believe in public education, and want people on food stamps to go hungry more often, and if you want to see your EIT go up by a lot.
The final section of the ballot involves voting for or again retention of some incumbent judges. These retention votes occur every 10 years per position. I will be voting YES for Debra Todd, and NO for everyone else. This is based on my knowledge of what each of these judges has done over the past ten years. Some local organizations have produced sample ballots that mark “yes” for some judges, and leave the others blank. This is a bad idea because the yeses and the noes are totaled, and blanks will not be counted.
Above all, remember to vote, and to bring your friends, families and neighbors. Remember that if just 5 people per precinct in Pennsylvania had voted for Hillary Clinton last year, Donald Trump would not be president today. Voting matters, and elections have consequences. In off-year elections like this one, your vote counts more because fewer people vote.
Comments? Questions? Blowback? Use the comments – but please, VOTE!