It will happen. It always does. In the next day or so, one or more newspapers will piously condemn yesterday's poor turnout, and blame everything on voter apathy. They do have a point, but let's look at some other reasons for the lousy turnout:
1. State Elections Officials: A Day Late and a Dollar Short
In the Lehigh Valley's most contentious race - the battle for the 133rd state rep. seat being vacated by T. J. Rooney, state officials have yet to post the campaign finance reports filed by the four candidates. Rybak's report became a major issue, but practically no one saw his report. Government has no problem posting all kinds of personal information about us on the net, but can't be bothered to let voters know who is funding a candidate until after an election, when it is too late to do any good.
2. Local Elections Officials: A Day Late and a Dollar Short
What's going on in the Boscola race? Who's been elected to state committee in Northampton County? We don't know because, as of the time of this post, most of the results are not in. Northampton County has just started using computerized voting, which supposedly makes things easier. Yet as of the time of this post, most of the results are not even tabulated. In the 21st century, this is unacceptable.
Local elections officials also need to be trained in the requirements of the Campaign Finance laws they supposedly administer. Both Lehigh Valley counties mistakenly believe that a candidate seeking a state office need only file a campaign finance report with the state. The law, however, also requires candidates seeking state office to file reports in their home counties. That law must be enforced, especially when the state can't be bothered to post a candidate's finance reports on the net until after the election.
3. Local Elections Officials are Destroying the Private Ballot
The right to cast a private ballot is central to our democratic form of government. It's why lever machines were replaced with computerized voting machines in Pa. Yet yesterday, as I attempted to cast my ballot, I had to do so with an election official hovering around my shoulder. He was only trying to help, but I didn't want his help or appreciate his proximity. Elections officials should not be within five feet of a voting machine while it is being used unless the voter asks for help.
4. Negative Campaigning
Tony "the Hatchet" Rybak attempted to get himself elected by falsely portraying Joe Brennan, the eventual winner, as some kind of jailbird. This deceptive campaign practice deters potential voters, who become disgusted by the whole process.
5. Lousy media coverage
No newspaper has reported the state's failure to post campaign finance reports on the Internet, which might embarrass state bureaucrats into doing the right thing. The vote yesterday reflects a genuine desire for more disclosure and transparency. Those media failed to take state officials to task for its poor performance in online disclosure of campaign finance reports. If the media doesn't care, why should we?
6. Political Hacks
How can we prevent voter apathy when we have a serious case of candidate apathy? Republicans are reeling from the many missteps taken by the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Delay, etc., etc. They are vulnerable. But the 15th U.S. Congressional District presented no Democratic candidates to face off against Republican Dent. Instead, Charles Dertinger, a county councilman who was also running for the state Democratic committee, waged a pitiful, last-minute, write-in campaign. He had such little regard for the voters that he wouldn't speak to the public through the press last night, leaving political boss Joe Long to claim victory.
The Silver Lining.
Despite the poor turnout, there's reason for hope. Here's why:
1. Voters cast out a number of the heavyweights who supported the midnight legislative payraise, including Senate Majority Leader David J. Brightbill, R-Lebanon, Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Blair, and local state rep. Paul Semmel.
2. We met a few class acts seeking office. One of them is Jose Rosado. He was defeated by another class act - Joe Brennan. Here's what Rosado had to say about the eventual victor in the 133rd: . ''I thought the race was tough on Joe. It was a difficult situation for he and his wife. That's unfortunate. In addition to congratulating him, I was expressing my feelings that it had to be difficult for him to endure some of the things that were brought out in this race.''
I hope we see Rosado's name again.