The May primary election matters, but not everyone gets to vote — which needs to change

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

In a few weeks, Pennsylvanians will go to the polls in what can be the most overlooked election we have: the off-year municipal primary, May 16. You may have your mail in ballot — as I do — don’t lose it or disregard it.

Even with much easier mail-in voting, too many people will pass on their chance to vote. Additionally, as these are primary elections for party nominations, independent voters can’t even weigh in (something that needs to change, as I’ll get into later).

Still, even if you feel a bit overwhelmed and tired of the bromide of “the most important election of our lives” that seems to be hauled out every cycle — this is an important election and one that could have a direct impact on your lives, in some ways more so than other elections.

In terms of property taxes — you have school board seats open and because of the nature of cross-filing in these races, we could see the fall elections made moot by one candidate winning both the Democratic and Republican nominations.

As an example, in Pocopson where I live, we have two seats up for election in Region B of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Board of Education. On the ballot for a four-year term, we have incumbent UCFSD Board President Victoria Baratta seeking the Democratic Nomination as is Robert Sage, also a current board member, but one who is not a Democrat. Only one candidate, Republican Lori Peters, is on the ballot for a second, two-year unexpired term. There is an active write-in Democrat, Mary Kate Loomis.

So you might think that the May election is unimportant — but both races could literally be decided at the primary, with no chance for independents to weigh in or to have the two candidates for each position to debate their very clear differences on school board governance between now and November.

My take on such things: electing candidates who are more interested in banning books, screaming about mask mandates and cutting taxes, rather than focusing on preserving one of the commonwealth’s best school districts, is somewhere between stupid and reckless.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see my home value drop by 20% because our once elite schools devolve into pointless fights to ban books and some educational curriculum, or worse hollow the district out with penny-wise, pound foolish spending cuts. Maybe it is that math education I got in my youth, but seeing my property taxes go up a couple hundred bucks a year is preferable to seeing my property lose $100,000 or more in resale value.

And that’s just one issue at stake in our May election.

We’ll be electing judges — again, they can cross file as both Democrats and Republicans, candidates could win both nominations for one of the five slot for Court of Common Pleas, again making the November election largely moot. We’ll also be electing many District Justices, too.

Additionally, we have many municipal elections — Township Supervisor, Borough Council and City Council up for election. And, of course, county-wide elections for Commissioners and various row offices.

Between schools, municipal boards and the county, your entire property tax bill is covered. If you fail to express your opinions at the polls, you have no say how your tax money is spent and how high those taxes will be.

While there’s no excuse for registered Democrats and Republicans to not vote on May 16, a whole swath of voters — independents — have to sit these elections out.

And that is just wrong. In many states, independent voters can declare to vote for one party or the other in a primary election. This tends to create more moderate candidates in each party, as those with extreme views don’t typically do well with moderate, non-aligned voters.

Additionally, if all taxpayers fund primary elections, then all taxpayers should have the right to vote in them.

Pennsylvania needs to change this — the time for open primaries is long past due.

If you can vote, though, make sure you send in your ballot or make it to the polls on election day, because this election does matter.

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