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The Ernest Opinion: Why Philadelphians don't vote

Democrats and Republicans share blame for city residents' apathy toward local races.
On average, only a third of Philadelphians vote in local elections.Getty Images

I’ve finally begun to understand why Philadelphianscould care less about voting except in national elections. It’s not that they’re not registered or too lazy to get to the polls – it’s just that the current local political system makes democracy appear meaningless.

My boyfriend currently runs voter registrationengagement and outreach for a political campaign he’s working on around West Philly. Sometimes I go to community events with him and see his co-workers make the case for why folks should register to vote. More often than not, a great number of themare already signed up, but haven’t moved the needle by actually voting.

The voter turnout in this city is tragic. Themajority of the city is registered to vote, but roughly a third of Philadelphians vote during local elections on average. Of course the number goes up significantly during national electionyears – as I presume it will this year – but after that, things goback to being sour.

Part of the reason why no cares about a local Philadelphiarace is because the city is currently dominated by a Democratic political machine that normally declares the winner the moment they back a candidate.

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“These Democrats in Philly ain’t any better than the Republicans they try to bash all the time,” saidCharlene, 54, a long-time West Philly resident. “If I could, I would vote for an independent or someone not connected to these big-shots.”

Last year’s major City Hall election saw independent candidate Andrew Stober run for an open City Council-at-large seat. Based on his growing visibility during the race and grassroots campaign effort,you would’ve thought he had a chance. Nope. Once again, Philadelphia remained Democratic, with many of theparty backed candidates staying put in office.

Beyond single-partydomination, even when votes are cast the outcome can be manipulated.The April vote on amending the stateConstitution to change the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75 has now been declarednull and void by the Republican-ruled state Legislature, which decided that the proposals wording confused voters.

Excuse me, but I knew what I voted for – and the majority agreed that we didn’t want to extend the age for lawyers to sit on the bench.

But this is what happens when votes don’t go the way those in power want them to.State Republicans wanted the age extension to keep Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who turns 70 at year’s end, as one of the two conservatives on the seven-member court.

After losing the election,Republicans now want a do-over in November.Republicans and their re-votes,it never gets old.

Times like these can be discouraging for voters but I encourage everyone tonot relinquish their vote. Instead, callfor more transparency that combats potentially suppressive methods.Don’t boo, vote – and hold the pols more accountable.

 
 
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