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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...


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 After you vote, be sure to call your representatives and tell them that this law must be repealed!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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Separated at birth?

Under the law, political mailings and phone calls are given special treatment. Regarding phone calls, many people are confused that, despite signing up for the "do not call" list, they still receive calls from political candidates vying for their votes. Many a campaign volunteer will tell you that they've been the recipient of an angry voice on the other end of the line stating, "I am on the 'do not call' list - do not call me!" Those in possession of said voices fail to understand that "do not call," as drafted only applies to telemarketers - i.e.: commercial organisations. Political campaigns are not restricted by that law, which is why the phones of voters get dialed with impunity every election season by both man and machine. Likewise, there is a list for one to opt out of receiving commercial solicitations in your mailbox. But, again, this does not apply to political campaigns.

Should I ever run for and win political office, I've decided to propose a bill limiting the number of campaign mailings a candidate can send out within any given period of time. I'd name this bill the SPAM act - "Schmotzer's Persistent Annoying Mailings" - in dubious honour of my least favourite local politician. In his campaign to fill out the remainder of Chelsa Wagner's term and win the Democratic Primary to run for his own two year term, Martin Michael Schmotzer has gone into overdrive with the resources available to him as the owner of a direct mail company, figuratively "blowing up" the mailboxes of every voter in the Pennsylvania State Legislature's 22nd district. For the past three weeks, True and I have received a near daily mailing from his campaign - usually doubled, since he seems to think that we each need our own individual slice of Schmotzer propaganda (every other campaign sending mailings sends one flyer - generally addressed to "The Warren Family" or some variation thereof).

The latest fliers coming from his campaign have been borderline slanderous against opponent Erin Molchany. In it he accuses Molchany of being "bankrolled by Big Shot Republicans" (none of whom he can name, apparently) as well as saying she sends out "hate mail" and is "supported by Extremists" (again, unnamed). On the opposite side of that particular flier, Schmotzer compares himself to other candidates with a particularly laughable chart of falsehoods and "qualification" padding. If any of his shtick is to be believed (and a quick Google search disproves most of it), one is not qualified for office in the 22nd if among other things:

  • One was not born in Pittsburgh
  • One did not live in Pittsburgh's South Hills for all one's life
  • One is not married
  • One does not have children
  • One is not a lifelong Democrat (did Schmotzer register as soon as his mother pushed him out?)
  • One is not an endorsed Democrat (more on the curiosities of his endorsement below)
  • One did not reduce school property taxes (isn't reducing taxes a Republican talking point? Why does Schmotzer hate public education?)
  • One is not a Democratic Party official (how Tammany Hall)
  • One is not a Union Member
  • One is not a small business owner (again, isn't this a Republican talking point?)

I have to be blunt: this man is pulling things out of his ass - and I really think he is doing it because the more people get to know Schmotzer, the less they want him anywhere near elected office.

Schmotzer began his political career as a member of the Baldwin-Whitehall school board from 1987-1993 and then again from 2007-2011. During his time on the board he apparently wasn't adverse to creating tension and discord and he even took a page from the John Boehner school of oratory when he made his final exit.

In between stints on the school board, Schmotzer was the Deputy Clerk of Courts for Allegheny County. In 1997, he was accused of embezzling $50,000 from the taxpayers' coffers and all but confessed to the crime when he "paid back" the money with "interest." Understandably, the Molchany campaign has reminded voters of this transgression and as far as I'm concerned, once you embezzle money you should be barred from public office. Schmotzer, of course, sees things differently. In a letter to voters in the 22nd dated April 12th, 2012, he wrote the following:

I am writing to respond to a negative mailer sent to you by my opponent staing, "Marty Schmotzer has a record too". [sic] What she is referring to is something that occurred 16 years ago. I can tell you the mailer tells of this story from one viewpoint only and does not tell the whole story. This chapter of my life went on for 9 years and was absolutely resolved with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania dismissing the case.

Schmotzer goes on to sidestep the issue for the next three paragraphs, instead choosing to trumpet his time as a school board member. One can nearly hear the jowly voice of Richard Nixon saying, "I am not a crook" as one reads this. Or, if one is of a younger generation, one could perhaps compare this to a Facebook message from an ex-lover desperately wanting to get back into your good graces. The final paragraph:

I work hard, but I'm far from perfect. On April 24th, I humbly ask for your support. I have the experience, maturity and energy to serve in Harrisburg with dignity and impact. Thank you very much.

It is true that Schmotzer has plenty of political experience. In fact, one could say that he has a damning amount of political experience. Pete Wagner apparently owes Schmotzer a favour or is being blackmailed. Again, the Pennsylvania Progressive:

Marty Schmotzer, the former Allegheny County Deputy Clerk of Courts who stole $50,000 from taxpayers and reneged on $25,000 to the IRS received but 25 legitimate votes from the Party's Exec Board to fill the special election nomination for Wagner's vacant seat (she is now Allegheny County Controller). The State Party by laws are quite clear on the procedures: fifty members vote and 26 votes are required. By the close of the voting Schmotzer had 25 votes. Here's the really amazing part of this scandal though: Burn added fifteen additional voters. Nothing in the By Laws permits this and it has never been done before.

The "powers that be" decided Marty was their man for this special election even though it'll be impossible to win. If I'm a Republican I simply pour money into direct mail and radio ads reminding voters of Schmotzer's dishonesty and run away with this seat. I could win this one with a ham sandwich. Burn seemed to think differently though and forced the guy through by packing the Board and thumbing his nose at the rules.

It seems to me that Michael Martin Schmotzer is the perfect party machine politician. And you know how I feel about those. But then again, perhaps I am too harsh. Perhaps I shouldn't see the Easter card sent by his campaign as a ham-fisted attempt at pandering (because we all know that none of his potential constituents could possibly be atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.). Perhaps Schmotzer is actually a nice guy who made a few mistakes because he's clueless.

The argument for cluelessness is certainly buttressed by a phone exchange I had with his campaign less than a week ago. I received a voice mail from his campaign coordinator asking for my support. I returned the call leaving a voice mail asking to be removed from their phone list (most campaigns will acquiesce if you state that you wish to receive no further calls directly from the campaign). Instead of sweet silence, I received a call not five minutes later from a woman who had seen my number on caller ID, but who had obviously not listened to the voice mail I'd left.

She didn't even begin by identifying herself, " just called here...?" There was a pregnant pause.

"Is this, the Schmotzer campaign," I finally asked, breaking the silence.

"Yes, yes it is," came an excited reply, "are you interested in volunteering?"

"No," I said, "I actually called because I want to be removed from your calling list. I will not be voting for Schmotzer for any office."

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

Others have written about less cordial encounters directly with the candidate. A post on, "Martin Schmotzer’s Ongoing Disregard For the Law," shows just how much Schmotzer has not reformed:

Today, Schmotzer came to our house and shoved a door hanger type flyer through the mail slot.


My biggest issue is how Mr. Schmotzer responded. He admitted that he did it because the door knob on “these houses” don’t accommodate his fancy hangers. He justified it. He tried to redirect me by pointing to the ACDC committeeman sitting in the vehicle nearby. He just didn’t accept responsibility. And when I didn’t back down, he walked away with a dismissive gesture.

Seriously? A man who stole $50,000 from Allegheny County taxpayers and wants us to believe he’s reformed blatantly violates federal law and doesn’t give a damn. Why on earth would anyone be foolish enough to think he would conduct himself any differently if he were elected?

He won’t. Its like an Orie/Veon entitlement mantle is already wrapped around his shoulders and we can expect either nothing or egregious conduct.

In a follow-up post it was noted that Schmotzer subscribes to the Rush Limbaugh school of apologising.

And there is the crux of why Michael Martin Schmotzer should never see the interior of an elected office ever again: entitlement. Schmotzer's entire campaign is about how he deserves whatever he wants whenever he wants it and damn anyone to hell who gets in his way - especially those pesky voters! From his pandering letters, to his blatantly false attacks on his opponents to his campaign signs with a colour scheme fit for a used car dealership touting the very Chicagoeque, "vote twice, it's okay," Schmotzer's campaign has been the sleaziest, most disgusting spectacle I have witnessed in recent memory. And even more disturbing is that the paper trail shows that he has always been like this.

As far as I'm concerned, Michael Martin Schmotzer is a wart on the arse of good government. He needs to be frozen out and permanently removed from the body politic. Let's hope the majority of voters in the 22nd agree with me tomorrow.

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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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Seth Warren

May 2017

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