June 27, 2007

Primary Concerns

The panel assigned to consider changing Pennsylvania's primary election date has spoken. They suggest moving the election forward, to match other states vying for significance in deciding who our Presidential candidates will be. I understand the desire to play a role in this process, since most recent Presidential elections have kept Pennsylvania in the also-ran column. However, there is at least one major flaw with this thinking.

If Pennsylvania joins the mad dash to a February 5th, 2008 primary date, one of 3 things could happen.

First possibility: Pennsylvania will join the masses in a one day free-for-all which will definitively provide us with 2 clear choices for President.

Second possibility: no clear winner on the either side. At which point, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, who vote in March, will suddenly have more relevance than PA, FL, TX, IL, and CA combined. These 6 states, in this scenario, hold all the cards. Who feels comfy with that prospect?

Finally, if still not decided by then (unlikely, but possible): Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia will become more relevant than Pennsylvania, followed by Montana and South Dakota.

If that weren't enough to caution you about consideration of the February primary, think about the average voter. They have a hard enough time remembering the date of primary, let alone a "special election" date held specifically for referendums if your school district needs one. Yep, the already stuck-in-a-quagmire "real estate tax relief" legislation will get its own special trip to the polls. Does this give Fast-Eddie (or any other politician) an angle to clear his bad idea? You bet it will!

Over the last 25 years of working the polls in Philly and it's suburbs, I have noticed a disturbing trend. Voters barely have a basic knowledge of civics. A lot of voters don't realize the role of primaries or which races apply to them. Some of my suburban voters often ask me why they can't vote for Philly's mayor. Others, when I ask them which primary are they participating in (Rep or Dem), proudly admonish me by saying, "...it's none of your business who I am voting for!".

If the voters have a hard time understanding the relevance of this process, how on earth will they be able to grasp the changes this brilliant committee has recommended?

Who honestly thinks a move to February won't result in Pennsylvania voters feeling further separated from their government?

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