Vote twice a year, every year!
With the current focus on next year’s presidential election, it’s easy for voters to focus on 2020 as the only election that counts. What gets lost in all the media coverage is the fact that we have important elections in non-presidential years. These elections are the so called ‘off year’ elections that have a far greater impact on our daily lives because of the offices on the ballot. Historically, ‘off year’ elections produce a far less energized electorate and lower turnout.
The 2019 Primary Election on May 21 was a prime example of ongoing chronic low turnout. Only 23% of registered voters cast a ballot in Philadelphia County.
When we call non-presidential years ‘off year’ elections, we are framing those elections as less important. All elections are important. In May’s primary we decided the Democratic and Republican nominees for Mayor, City Council, City Commissioners, Register of Wills, Sheriff, and Superior, Common Pleas and Municipal Courts. All these offices make decisions that either decide or effect critical policy that impacts our daily lives.
I am always amazed at how many citizens do not exercise their civic responsibility to vote; twice a year, every year. Having said that, let me add that Pennsylvania does not make it easy to vote. Election Day is a 13-hour window on one specific day and if something happens and you don’t get to the polls, you won’t be able to record your vote.
We can and should do better. For example, in 36 states and the District of Columbia, any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. This is referred to as early voting. An additional three states allow for mail in voting prior to Election Day. The average starting time for early voting across these 39 states is 22 days before the election.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee, without offering an excuse. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list; once a voter asks to be added to the list, they will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections.
In Pennsylvania, we permit an absentee ballot only for certain reasons – generally illness and being out of town on Election Day; PA does not use a “no excuse” absentee ballot process. In PA absentee ballots must be requested for each election and well in advance of Election Day. (Editor’s Note: PA now allows voters to obtain absentee ballots online.)
Three states vote exclusively using the U.S. Postal Service mail.
Please know I am committed to continue advocating for the voting changes needed which will – hopefully – make it easier for more citizens to engage in the electoral process. Many bills to improve and update our voting system have languished for years in the PA House State Government Committee. My belief is that in addition to some legislators pushing for these bills, we need a citizen’s movement to advocate for the legislature to bring these bills up for hearings and votes. Until then, please circle the General Election day of November 5, 2019 on your calendar and plan to vote.
If you are not yet registered to vote, the deadline is October 7, 2019. You can register to vote online or check your current voter status at www.votespa.com.
You can, of course, complete an absentee ballot – it is a two-step process. You must first apply for the absentee ballot and then after the ballot is mailed to you, the City Commissioners must have your ballot in hand no later than November 1, 2019.
If my office can be of help with any voting related matter, please call us. See you at the polls!!
Stay Informed, Stay in Touch
Thoughts? Suggestions? Concerns? Make your voice heard by visiting my office at 6511 Ridge Avenue or calling (215) 482-8726. Walk-ins always welcome.