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Your vote counts, and there is plenty of proof: Editorial

Posted 5/28/19

Your vote counts.

It really does. This simple statement especially applies in local elections, when the vote totals are much lower than the millions cast in a presidential or gubernatorial race, …

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Your vote counts, and there is plenty of proof: Editorial

Posted

Your vote counts.

It really does. This simple statement especially applies in local elections, when the vote totals are much lower than the millions cast in a presidential or gubernatorial race, for example.

Need proof? Look at the Democratic primary for Middletown Borough Council on May 21. Phyllis Dew beat Erin Blake by one vote for the fourth spot on the November ballot — 142 to 141, according to unofficial results.

One vote.

If two Democrats had decided not to stay at home and then voted for Erin Blake, it would have shifted the election.

With four seats being contested in the November general election, and only three incumbents running, there will be someone new on the council. Robert Reid, the longtime mayor who has served on council since 2015, did not run for re-election.

An interesting fact about Reid: In 2015, he won as a write-in candidate. Voters literally wrote his name on the ballot, and because of how well-known he is in the community and what he achieved during his years as mayor, he won with a staggering 175 write-in votes.

That’s what makes writing about elections difficult. While the process appears to be simple — you go in, you take a ballot, you vote, they are counted and the people with the most votes win — it can be tricky when write-ins are factored into the equation.

So to say with absolute certainty that there will be a new face on council actually could prove to be false. It appears very, very unlikely that Reid wants to serve again, but if he changes his mind in the fall and mounts another write-in campaign, would you bet against him?

Also, look at the situation of Scott Sites. The former borough council member appears to have earned enough write-in votes to appear as a Republican on the November ballot for a council seat. Only two Republicans were on the ballot — David Rhen and Richard Kluskiewicz. However, because four seats are being contested in November, there were two slots that write-in candidates could fill if they had 10 or more write-in votes that were certified as valid.

Sites says he did not campaign to be a write-in candidate and told us he is waiting for results of Tuesday’s primary to become official before saying if he will run.

Even the concept of the primaries can be confusing. In Pennsylvania primaries, you can only vote for candidates in the same political party under which you are registered. At least, unless you want to write in candidates from the opposing party. Many of the write-in votes in the May 21 election were for borough council candidates who were of the opposite party of the voter. Ellen Willenbecher, Angela Lloyd and Mike Woodworth, all Democratic incumbents, received a number of write-in votes from Republicans who apparently wanted to make their preference clear despite those names not appearing on the ballot they received.

Another problem in our view is that registered independents can’t vote in primary elections. There are about 750,000 voters unaffiliated with a major party in Pennsylvania. Yet all taxpayers fund these primaries that simply are tools for the parties to pick their candidates. It’s not fair.

Pennsylvania is one of nine states with closed primaries. Changes are necessary. Senate Bill 300, which has been put forth by Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, would allow the registered independents to vote in primaries. Such a plan needs further consideration.

We never would say that a presidential or gubernatorial race isn’t important. However, think how much local elections such as those for Middletown Borough Council, the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners or the Londonderry Board of Supervisors are to the residents of those municipalities. Look at the issues with the Suez water and sewer lease or the restrictions on more than two unrelated people living together in Middletown, or the proliferation of warehouses in Lower Swatara Township, or the closure of Three Mile Island and its effect on Londonderry Township. These are issues that can affect us on a regular basis. You have the power to decide who is making decisions on these issues by voting in these local races.

We have a few months before November rolls around. Take a few minutes between now and then to get to know the candidates for whom you will vote. Heck, if you don’t like any of them, mount a write-in campaign yourself.

But get informed and vote. Every community faces challenges, and residents deserve the best public officials possible.