My Election Day wishes, and some stuff we think we know | John Baer
Lots of data and some gut feelings suggest a midterm vote larger than most, which is good for democracy. But only you can make that happen.
My first Election Day wish, always and of course, is that you vote.
As Thomas Jefferson put it, the basis of our government is "the opinion of the people." That's you.
And this year, both unusually and understandably, it appears that you will vote. At least in greater numbers than in the last midterms, in 2014.
But then 2014 drew the lowest national turnout in 70 years. And here in the cradle of democracy, city and state turnout was just 36 percent.
And now? Well, last week's Franklin and Marshall College poll shows 87 percent of registered voters say they're "certain to vote," an 11 percent jump since June.
So, that's good.
Though people tell pollsters lots of things. And lots of people don't trust pollsters (or anyone, including the press). But it sure feels as if folks are more engaged than normal.
Plus, absentee ballot requests are way up.
On Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of State had a statewide number approaching 230,000 — more than double the requests in 2014.
Counties with the most absentee ballot requests: Allegheny (26,658); Montgomery (21,091); Bucks (17,251); Chester (15,709); Philadelphia (13,460); Delaware (11,215).
I'd just note that there are 8.4 million registered voters in the state.
Still, this makes me wish, as I have before, that Pennsylvania would join a majority of states that do not, as we do, require an excuse to vote absentee.
I also wish we'd get through every Election Day without polling place nonsense that calls the purity of the vote into question.
I just think we've all had it with losers' croaks about "rigged" elections and voter fraud, which rank at the same level of veracity as claims that criminal, diseased, Honduran hordes are racing north to vote for Democrats.
Enough with the nutso junk.
Another wish? Pennsylvania steps toward joining the current century in terms of gender representation.
Our 18-member congressional delegation has no women. Throughout history, our state elected just seven women to Congress. Eight women are running now.
They all can't win. Two are running for the same seat in the Fifth Congressional District in Philly's burbs, where it's Republican Pearl Kim vs. Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon.
But some will win. So that's a start.
And save the whining about how character, not gender should be the focus.
I've seen enough male characters whose very presence in office pleads for gender parity. Also, representation should be the focus. We've got no women in Congress.
While I'm at it, I wish election days were national holidays. Or that elections took place over multiple days, including a weekend.
Why wouldn't a democratic republic encourage greater participation?
Oh, and I wish Pennsylvania had legislative leaders who believe in democracy more than protecting incumbents, and who'd replace our outdated voting laws with same-day registration, open primaries, and early voting.
And I wish young people would vote. In 2016, just 46 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds cast ballots. As usual, the lowest voting-age group.
I wish it weren't so but as long as it continues, Congress and legislatures can disproportionately address issues of those who vote (U.S. Census says 71 percent of those 65 and older voted in 2016) and downplay concerns of those who don't.
As to stuff we think we know?
I dove into the latest Franklin and Marshall poll with its methodologist Berwood Yost, looking for "blue wave" evidence — because I'm suspicious of same.
After tinkering with turnout models, Yost offers this: Although all voting groups, Republicans, Democrats, independents, say they're interested in the election and likely to vote, 95 percent of those who say they're "strong Democrats" plan on voting straight ticket.
On the other hand, says Yost, of those who say they're "strong Republicans," 75 percent say they'll vote straight GOP. Yost says this suggests Democratic voters are "more cohesive" than Republicans, which can help all D candidates.
Finally, (cliché alert) the only poll that counts is on Election Day. The only way it counts is if you vote. And I wish Pennsylvania would start leading the way in expressing "the opinion of the people."