Monday, May 15, 2006

Tomorrow Is Election Day

Tomorrow's the big day! For the first time since before I was born, Allegheny County voters will be using new voting machines. Most people around here should be used to this; we were using touch screens to take our Pennsylvania driving exams twenty years ago. Write-in voting has been simplified. The old "slide open the cover and scribble your choice in with a pencil" system always seemed kind of suspect to me. Now it's going to be done with a touch screen keyboard. This will of course require that the voter possess the ability to spell the write-in candidate's name correctly. The best way to remedy this is to get the theme from The Mickey Mouse Club stuck in your head when you enter the polling station.

Having already determined that this is a good thing and not a bad thing, I need to ask one question: Is it worth going down to vote tomorrow?

I'm not trying to shirk my civic responsibility or anything, but from what I can see, all of my party's races are uncontested in this primary. There are only two reasons for me to show up and go through the motions:

  1. Practice using the new voting machine; and
  2. Continue my perfect record of having voted in every election since I registered to vote in 1985.

Okay, I've decided; it's worth it. Plus, there's a third reason: If there is a race where no candidate has filed, I get to play around with the write-in function. Whoever I end up voting for will not be Mickey Mouse, I can guarantee you that right now.

As for the candidates who are on the ballot, I turn to the web site of Progress Pittsburgh, "a broad coalition of progressives" whose members, in all likelihood, have voting records radically different than mine. Nevertheless, they have a comprehensive list of candidates in this year's races, including third party candidates, which helps immensely since there never seems to be a copy of the ballot for my area to be found prior to election day. (Not that it matters much, since the municipal races were decided last year.) Here's who I have to look forward to:

  • United States Senate -- This has been Rick Santorum's seat since 1994, and this year's race looks to be his toughest yet. I might cast a write-in here, just to show that I haven't been drinking the Hugh Hewitt Kool-Aid. Rick started off as a good conservative, but over the years he has morphed into a shameless self-promoter (even for a politician) and a borderline religious fanatic. This ain't the Vatican City, pal; it's the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Try to get it straight.
  • United States Congress -- Dr. Tim Murphy is the incumbent. It's unlikely that he will have much trouble in the fall, unless disgruntled conservatives stay home and make him a victim of the anti-Bush Republican backlash. He is a medical doctor, which gives him an insider's perspective on health care issues, and he was injured while visiting Iraq last year. That may not exactly qualify him as a war hero, but at least he took one for the team, even if it was just a vehicular accident.
  • Governor of Pennsylvania -- This would have been such an interesting campaign had not so many committees thrown their support to Lynn Swann earlier this year. Now he's unopposed, and that is not a good thing, since opposition would have forced him to be a bit more articulate on the issues. He's our man, though, and as Minnesota and California have shown us in the last ten years, star power can go a long way towards sending someone to the Governor's mansion. It's not too soon to look forward to November, since Democrat incumbent "Fast Eddie" Rendell is already running commercials touting his education record (such as it is) but ignoring his penchant for pork. That is what Swann needs to run against.
  • Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania -- Outside of Montgomery County, where he is a county commissioner, Jim Matthews is best known as the brother of Chris "Hardball" Matthews. That's very interesting, and I won't hold it against him; Jim Matthews does not seem to have that much in common with his brother, politically. Plus, they are trying to please different audiences/constituencies. Jim sounds like a real winner, so no write in here.
  • Pennsylvania State Senator -- This is the district where Democrat Wayne Fontana defeated Dem-turned-Republican Mike Diven and independent/libertarian/former D-and-R community activist Mark Rauterkus in the special election last year. Diven chose to run for re-election to his state representative seat this year, but dropped out of the race after running into some problems with dead people in his district. No one else stepped in to run for state senator, so I have a clear path to write in whomever I choose. Mickey Mouse is starting to look good in this one. Not so for the fall; according to Progress Pittsburgh, Rauterkus (whom you will find in my blogroll under "Local Yokels") is running as an independent this year. That's something to look forward to.
  • Pennsylvania State Representative -- I think I covered this one a few days ago. Bill Ogden. Probably the most worthwhile vote of any that I cast in this election.

Other than that...maybe a few Republican committee races. If there's any competition, I'd be surprised. But at least I know who the good guys are. And if I can't decide, I'll take my inspiration from Mitch Berg and write in the family cat.

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