The November 2017 Municipal Election: What You Need to Know
November 7th is Election Day. Did you know that already? Do you plan to vote? Sadly, if you are a millennial, your answers to these important questions are most likely “no.” If that's the case, hopefully this post can change your mind.
Let’s start with some data. It is common knowledge that voter turnout in non-presidential elections is generally low. During the primary election this past May, only 10 percent of people between 18-34 years of age voted. That once again gave millennials the shameful distinction of having the lowest voter turnout of any age group in Philadelphia. The good news, however, is that millennial voter turnout numbers may be inching up. In that same recent primary election, there was a 279 percent increase in 18-34-year-old voters compared to the 2013 municipal primary. Of course, it is too soon to know whether that increase was the beginning of a long-term development, or alternatively, just a one-time anomaly.
So why vote? The answer is easy: because it matters. While the races on the ballot are not necessarily sexy, the outcomes can impact your lives. And this is not hyperbole.
The race getting the most attention right now is the contest to determine Philadelphia’s next District Attorney. On one side is Democrat Larry Krasner and on the other is Republican Beth Grossman. Although there is not enough room here to go into the details of the significant policy differences between these candidates (and luckily, other sources have already written about this), it is enough to say that this race asks voters to consider whether the time is right to fundamentally change the way the District Attorney’s office prosecutes alleged crimes, or whether the status quo is just fine. If you have an opinion on this question, then you need to vote.
The election also asks Philadelphians to select the next City Controller, an important position that audits and reviews local government finances. The Democrats are running Rebecca Rhynhart, a former Chief Administrative Officer under Mayor Kenney and former City Treasurer and Budget Director under Mayor Nutter. She is facing Republican Michael Tomlinson, a business consultant.
Moreover, on the ballot are a number of statewide judicial races that will profoundly impact the appellate bench in Pennsylvania for years to come. Do you care about redistricting or fracking or other big picture issues? If so, cast a vote in the race to fill a vacant seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, choosing between Democrat Dwayne Woodruff, a sitting trial judge in Allegheny County, or Republican Sallie Updyke Mundy, who holds the seat temporarily and is seeking a full 10 year term.
Do you care about zoning, or taxation, or making sure that our state and local government is open and accountable to the people? If so, you should vote to fill two vacancies on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, the intermediate appellate court that often has final say on these issues at the statewide level.
What about having quality judges reviewing trial court decisions in the areas of civil, criminal, and family law, do you care about that? You should. Every day trial courts across Pennsylvania sentence individuals to long terms of incarceration, or enter civil judgments for large amounts of money, or dismiss lawsuits for failure to state a claim, or terminate parents’ parental rights. Each ruling greatly affects the people involved in those cases – and those rulings are reviewed for possible error by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. This upcoming election asks voters to fill four vacancies on that court. By voting, you can play a role ensuring that the most competent jurists are selected to decide those cases.
November may not be a presidential election, but it is an important election. Please vote! If you need to find your polling place, there are resources available online to help. To take it one step further and help empower Philly Set Go to encourage more millennials to vote in future elections, contribute today to our crowdfunding effort.