Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. We should all vote. I know you’re fed up with politicians. Believe me, I am too. I’d rather go bowling than vote for these clowns, and I don’t care for bowling. But in times like these, it’s more important than ever to choose our representatives carefully.
I live in Brentwood, and often write in “None of the Above” in municipal elections. This year, I’ll be writing in four names for mayor and council – Jonny Gammage and three young Brentwood men. Gammage died at the hands of Brentwood police officer John Vojtas in 1995. Brentwood police, including Vojtas, Milton Mulholland Jr., and Gerald Mikelonis routinely violate the others’ civil rights. The young men symbolize my son and the hundreds of other victims of Brentwood’s ongoing criminal enterprise, which operates with the approval of the police chief, mayor, council members, and borough manager. Maybe one day the cowardly locals will wake up and take a stand against their criminal cops, instead of bragging that they all went to high school together.
You can do something similar in your town.
County and municipal elections happen in odd-numbered years. So Tuesday’s election covers county and local offices and a handful of state and county judges. If you’re not registered to vote, it’s too late this time, but you can still register for the next primary election in April here. If you’re already registered, you can confirm your registration and locate your polling place in Allegheny County here.
Allegheny County positions open for election:
Judges, County Executive, County Controller, District Attorney, Treasurer, and Council Members
County Council members serve staggered 4 year terms. Voter will choose representatives for odd-numbered districts this year.
City of Pittsburgh positions open for election:
City Council, City Controller, Library funding referendum
Other municipal positions open for election:
Some mayors, many Council members, district magistrates and constables, School Directors
There are far too many candidates to list here, but you can look at the Keystone Progress voter’s guide for a list of county candidates.
So why should be bother to vote when it’s “only” a local election?
All elected officials in the United States take an oath to uphold, and are supposed to understand, the six purposes of government, as listed in our Constitution:
to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
Elections are important because government officials – the ones we elect and those they hire – decide how much taxes we pay and how those taxes are spent. They determine whether to build or repair our roads and bridges, what our schools teach, and what social services to provide, and to whom. These folks have the power to clamp down on criminal cops who don’t hesitate to violate citizens’ civil rights.
Local elections are more crucial than ever before because the Republicans’ demands for federal and state governments to abandon their responsibilities force the local governments to try to take up the slack.
Government decisions favor the rich instead of the poor because rich people vote more than poor people do. People least likely to vote are new voters, people with lower incomes, with disabilities, with criminal records, minorities, youth, and women. According to the US Census Bureau, people who earn more than $100,000 per year vote at a rate of nearly three to one over those who earn less than $30,000.
So, if you don’t like current conditions, you CAN change them. Voting is just the beginning. Be informed about the issues important to you. Contact your elected officials, either on your own or as a group with your friends, neighbors, family, or co-workers. Join an organization that works on things you care about. If there isn’t an organization, start one.
State and federal laws protect your voting rights. You cannot lose your job, or your benefits, or be evicted for voting. People with felony convictions, who are registered, can vote in PA once they are no longer incarcerated. Homeless people who are registered can vote. People with disabilities can get help from the person of their choice in the voting booth. No one can harass or threaten you at the voting station.
The Allegheny County Election Division supervises all elections in the county. There is a Judge of Election at each polling place to help you if there is a problem with your registration. An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge will be on duty Election Day to handle voting disputes. Call 412-350-5463 to report a problem. If you are not permitted to vote, insist on a paper provisional ballot. You can vote on that ballot and county election officials will confirm your registration status later. If your registration is valid, your vote will be counted.
All polling places are open on Tuesday, November 8, from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Take your children, so they can learn about voting. You do not need your voter registration card to vote, but you do need to show ID if this is your first time voting at your polling place. All of the standard forms of ID are accepted.
If you’ve never voted before, don’t worry. There is a large sample ballot hanging on the wall of the room. You can look at it all you want and chat about it with anybody working the polls (inside or outside) or other voters who might be there. Take your time. Think about what’s important to you. Don’t worry about using the new voting machines. If you can use an automatic banking machine, you can operate a voting machine. There’s a demonstration video online. The poll workers will help you if you ask.
So vote. Believe me, you’ll feel great afterward.
For more information on the candidates
Keystone Progress: Pennsylvania Progressive Voter’s Guide