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Sadly, most Americans don't realise that there are two elections every year. Most turn out for the big, glamorous selection of the president and resume hibernating upon their civic duty for four more years. Of course, this doesn't stop them from asking, "how do we get such idiots for candidates!" Well, my fellow Americans, idiot candidates rely upon people like you being politically apathetic during boring municipal elections, which allows them the opportunity to slip in at the bottom of the political ladder with little opposition, if any at all, and start working their way up.

It's one thing if you vote for an idiot and then complain about that person (and hopefully are more the wiser the next time you go to vote). However, if you complain about the idiots in office yet did nothing to prevent them from taking office...suffice it to say that I have little sympathy for you.

That said, Pennsylvania has a primary election tomorrow (May 16th). Don't be apathetic. The polls are open from 7:00AM-8:00PM and I'm picking some smart candidates (and I hope you do as well).

Mayor of Pittsburgh

Bill Peduto for Mayor


Pittsburgh City Council, District 4

Ashleigh Deemer for City Council District 4

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No one expects the primary election! Unless they've been looking at a calender, keeping up on the news and/or getting inundated with mailings and ads from political candidates. In any case, citizens of Pennsylvania (and any other states with primaries today - I think New York is on the list), you all know what you must go out and do today...

VOTE!

Polls are open from 7:00AM-8:00PM. Find your polling place and candidates. Here are my picks on the Democratic ballot where I live:

United States Senator

Bob Casey Jr.


United States Congress, Pennsylvania District 14

Mike Doyle


Pennsylvania State Attorney General

Kathleen G. Kane


PA State House of Representatives - District 22 Primary/Special Election

Erin Molchany


[X]In addition to voting, I encourage all Pennsylvania voters to engage in civil disobedience at the polls today. The Republican-led legislature rushed a voter ID law onto the governor's desk which he signed into law almost immediately. While the law does not go into effect until the general election in November, poll workers have been ordered to ask voters to show ID as part of a "test run" of the new law. Those who do not show ID will not be barred from voting. As such, stand with me and refuse to show your ID at your polling place. After you vote, be sure to call your representatives and tell them that this law must be repealed! Be sure as well to support the ACLU and any other groups working to bring this law to court and defeat it via the legal system.

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Clipart Ballot BoxIn one week, on April 24th, residents across the state of Pennsylvania will go to their polling stations to cast their ballots in party primaries and/or various special elections. This election, however, will be the first statewide since the new voter ID bill was signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett on March 15th. Prior to the passage of this bill, one was required to show photo identification or merely a voter registration card only the first time one visited a new polling location. Passage of the voter ID bill now means that citizens of Pennsylvania will be required to show photo ID each and every time they go to vote.

While the law doesn't go into full effect until the November 6th general election, officials in the state will be using April 24th to do a "soft run" of the new law (see the FAQ of votesPA for more information). The reason for this "soft run" is obvious: test the pliability of the citizenry. Think about it: how many times in one day are you asked to show your driver's license? It's probably such a reflexive action at this point that you hardly notice when you do it. Supporters of the voter ID law use this to buttress their argument that such laws do not disenfranchise individuals nor place an unfair burden on the ability to vote.

What proponents of voter ID laws are missing however is that the vast majority of cases where one is required to show a driver's license or some other form of ID is when an individual is engaging in the privilege of consumerism. One procures a driver's license to engage in the privilege of driving. One displays their ID in a bar for the privilege of purchasing and consuming alcohol (one would hope not before the aforementioned privilege of driving). One displays their ID at the ticket counter outside a cinema for the privilege of attending an R-rated movie. All of these are scenarios where it is perfectly acceptable to ask for identification; they are privileges.

Voting is a right, not a privilege. To place any barriers between an individual and their right to vote is unconstitutional and un-American. Not that this bothers the Republican-lead legislature in Pennsylvania (or any other state where these laws have been passed). Under the dubious claim that they are trying to prevent fraud, voter ID laws actually have the dubious honour of depressing polling totals of groups who generally do not vote for Republicans: students, African-Americans and those pesky senior citizens who don't want Social Security turned into a Ponzi scheme. And let's not forget that there have not been any confirmed cases of voter fraud (from lack of ID or otherwise) in Pennsylvania recently or even not so recently. If I were charitable, I'd say that the Republicans were handing us a solution in desperate need of a problem. I'm not charitable though: the filthy right-wingers merely want to keep their sticky fingers clasped as tightly to the reins of power as possible - by any means necessary.

Seeing as how I'm going to be asked on April 24th to obey a law which technically does not exist yet, I've decided that I will not cooperate. When I got to vote next Tuesday, I will approach the election officials volunteering at the sign in table and, when asked to show my photo identification, I will simply reply, "no." If the officials at my polling place have been trained properly, they will likely hand me a pamphlet with a list of acceptable forms of identification and a reminder to be prepared with something from said list in November and I will be allowed to vote. If the officials aren't trained properly, they may very well tell me that I am not allowed to vote. Should that happen, I will politely tell them they are incorrect and request an election lawyer (most campaigns keep at least one on retainer along with poll watchers) to confirm this. I will not leave the polling station until I have voted.

It is a small act of civil disobedience, but I think that it is one which every Pennsylvanian should engage in, no matter what his or her political stripe. Unlikely though it may be, if it comes back that this "soft run" has proven to be more trouble than it is worth, just maybe we can be rid of these onerous attacks on our freedoms.

As a final act after voting, we should all call our so-called "representatives" in Harrisburg and tell them to repeal the bill.

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Of the many reforms I wish to see in the way elections are handled in the United States, one of the more important ones is assigning electoral college votes for Presidential elections as a percentage of the popular vote. In every state save Nebraska and Maine, Electoral Votes are assigned on a "winner take all" basis: whichever candidate receives more than 50% of the popular vote in the state receives all of the electoral college votes. However, in the Nebraska and Maine, electoral votes are assigned based on the percentage of the popular vote in a formula tabulated by the number of congressional districts plus the two senate seats (which is equal to the number of electors in each state). In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain won two out of Nebraska's three congressional districts. Barack Obama won the congressional district which included the city of Omaha. As such, McCain received four of Nebraska's five electors (the two "senate" votes still being tabulated as "winner take all") while Obama received one electoral vote.

It was recently proposed that Pennsylvania adopt such a system. From the Post-Gazette:

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state's "winner-takes-all" approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he's suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.

So far, the idea has received support from colleagues of the Delaware County Republican in the state House and from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. But Democrats, who have carried the state in presidential contests since 1992, said the shift would erode Pennsylvania's clout.

Only two states -- Nebraska and Maine -- divide their electoral votes instead of giving the whole bloc to the candidate that wins the state's popular vote. Even for those two states, the piecemeal approach has been a rarity, with Nebraska historically dividing its five votes in the 2008 election, when one went to President Barack Obama.

If the multiple posts from PADems on Facebook are of any indication, the Democratic Party is having a collective bowel spasm over the idea that the swing state may become an ever harder prize to capture than it already is. This is understandable, but I've no doubt that if the same proposal were floated in Texas, the Republican Party would be suffering from the same nervous disorder.

While I've no doubt that Pennsylvania Republicans think they are doing something which will make it easier to win elections for their party (as Pennsylvania would be the first state with a sizeable number of electoral votes to divvy them up), in the long-term I suspect their plan will backfire. Meanwhile, as is par for the course of the Democrats, they are not only missing a major opportunity here, but actively shooting themselves in the foot.

The argument for assigning electoral votes by percentage - and rightly so - is that doing so reflects the will of the people. By opposing this in Pennsylvania, the Democrats are making themselves look like the party who wins by any means necessary, a title which has been proudly held by the Republicans. If the Democrats had any sense of strategy whatsoever, they would go along with this plan, but offer up the votes to pass the bill on the condition that 1.) it included a provision to implement instant run-off voting and 2.) it included an amendment to prevent voter ID laws from being passed. With these two caveats, the Democrats look like a party willing to compromise and allow positive government reform to happen. Republicans opposing these two amendments would look petty and obstructionist by comparison.

Regardless of what the Democrats in Pennsylvania decide to do, I support assigning electoral votes in Pennsylvania by percentage of the popular vote. Abolishing the electoral college and having a national popular vote would be ideal, however as the electoral college is enshrined in the Constitution, such an objective would be quite difficult to accomplish. Getting individual states to change the way electors cast ballots, by comparison, is much easier. I suspect that if Pennsylvania does implement the system used in Maine and Nebraska it will have a domino effect; it shouldn't take too many years for the Texas Republican Party to be sending desperate messages to their followers opposing electoral vote reform.

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With two weeks until primary day in Pennsylvania (May 18th), Democratic primary candidate for governor Joe Hoeffel calls out jagoff tag-team Dan Onorato and Anthony Williams with a television ad of his own:

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Last week, Rasmussen polled the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania's senate seat at 44% Arlen Specter to 42% for Joe Sestak. Those remaining were undecided, leaving the race in a dead heat. Specter is obviously concerned, as he has released an attack ad this week:

Every time Specter has attacked Sestak, he has been grasping at straws. What is particularly sleazy about this ad is that when recounting Sestak's missed votes, Specter predictably fails to note that said votes were missed on one of two occasions: when Sestak was caring for his daughter, who was stricken with a brain tumour and when Sestak was visiting his father shortly before his death. Call me sickeningly sentimental, but I think both occasions are more than excusable for missing sessions of Congress.

More interesting about this ad is how difficult it is to find the video online. The code I posted is from Politico. Arlen Specter does not have the ad posted on his YouTube channel or his campaign website at present. It is as if he is trying to hide it (as if hiding something is truly possible in the age of the internet).

Conversely, the Sestak ad which was released at the same time is a warm introduction to the congressman who would be Pennsylvania's next senator:

The fact of the matter is that Arlen Specter has, after spending thirty years as a member of the Republican Party and betraying himself as a political windsock, absolutely nothing on Joe Sestak. I hate to be optimistic, but the more Pennsylvania voters get to know Joe Sestak, the more likely it seems that Arlen Specter will be sent into a long-overdue retirement.

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This ad is from the Sestak campaign:

Arlen Specter is really not looking too good here. Let's see what he hits back with...

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I just received the following email from The Pennsylvania Democratic Committee:

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney and Vice-chairwoman Jean Milko today released the following joint statement regarding the passing of Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll:

"The Pennsylvania Democratic Party joins the rest of the Commonwealth as it mourns the passing of Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, a genuinely caring and compassionate person to all. Catherine's heart was bigger than the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and she fought valiantly since learning of her illness. Her love of life and her passion for public service will not be forgotten by those that knew her, worked with her and admired her."

"Catherine's love for Pennsylvania and the Democratic Party will always be remembered fondly by all of us. She was a true champion for working families, a trailblazer as the first woman elected to the position of lieutenant governor and a tireless campaigner who gave her all to those individuals and causes that she deemed worthy of her support."

"She gave of herself selflessly and held other public servants to the highest of standards in government. Catherine worked well with members on both sides of the aisle in the Senate where she presided and loved to talk about her influence on legislation that helped children and working families throughout the Commonwealth."

"Catherine Baker Knoll will always be remembered as a genuine, one-of-a kind elected official who will never be matched in terms of the size of her heart and concern for those less fortunate."

"We will keep her loving family in our thoughts and prayers during this most difficult time."

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Seth Warren

May 2017

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