As a plethora of candidates prepare for the upcoming primary race for Pennsylvania’s next governor, the low voter-turnout trend needs to cease.
Voter turnout for the Nov. 3 elections in Philadelphia – and at Temple – was completely and utterly disgraceful. A mere 12 percent of the city’s registered voters turned up at the polls on Election Day, as reported by WHYY the following day.
Eastern Vice President of the Pennsylvania Federation of College Democrats Elizabeth Hanson said turnout in the Philadelphia region was lower than all of Allegheny County. The senior political science major said she wanted to hold SEPTA’s strike, which began on Election Day, responsible for the low turn out.
“I would like to blame SEPTA,” Hanson said, “but I think the problem is more pervasive than that.”
Hanson isn’t the only politically active student on Main Campus who voiced concern for this year’s voter turnout. Danny Dunphy, senior political science major and president of Temple College Democrats, said he wasn’t surprised but was disappointed nonetheless.
“The people that I did talk to on campus really didn’t know too much about an election,” Dunphy said. “Even some of the professors weren’t fully aware of it.”
President of Temple College Republicans Barry Scatton blames low voter turnout at Temple on a disconnect between non-Philadelphian students and the city.
“A lot of students are from out of town, so maybe they don’t understand [Philadelphia] politics as much as they do in their own hometown,” Scatton, a senior political science major, said.
Those unfamiliar with Philadelphia or Pennsylvania politics, or those who were apathetic last month, have a chance to redeem themselves and show they’re concerned citizens who want their voices to be heard.
On May 18, 2010, Pennsylvania will hold a primary election that will determine the fate of the November 2010 general elections’ ballot.
“Rendell will not be on the ticket,” Hanson said. “His time is up, so it’s important to pay attention to the candidates and pick one who will take Pennsylvania in the direction you would like it to go in.”
There are currently five Democrats, four Republicans and one independent expected to be on the ticket in gubernatorial primaries in May.
Tom Knox, a Philadelphia businessman who lost to Michael Nutter in the 2007 mayoral elections; Jack Wagner, state auditor general, who won his seat in a landslide in 2004; Montgomery County Commissioner and former Congressman Joe Hoeffel and Scranton Mayor Chris Dougherty are those running for the Democratic Party.
Independent candidate Rich Gordon, a truck driver, ex-businessman and retired Port Authority worker, is new to the political scene but states on his campaign Web site his “obligations are to you the people of Pennsylvania, not those that have given millions to a campaign.”
“I am ready to listen to you,” the Web site reads.
On the Republican ticket is Attorney General Tom Corbett, Congressman and Ex-State Sen. Jim Gerlach, businessman and National Guard veteran Robert Allen Mansfield and State Representative Sam Rohrer.
Temple political science professor Mark Cohen, who teaches a class in American state and local politics, said the state needs someone who can diminish the impact of partisan politics.
“Pennsylvania is torn like many places in the United States that are only concerned about the party’s platform, as opposed to the needs of the citizens,” Cohen said. “Pennsylvania also needs a governor who can bridge the gap between the rural, agricultural population and the urban population.”
Cohen said neither population understands the other’s viewpoints, so a governor who can bridge the gap is a necessity. In addition to a peacemaker, Cohen said Pennsylvania “needs someone who is very fiscally savvy” to deal with the financial issues.
The deadline for voter registration is April 19. Dunphy said TCD is going to be helping people register as well as providing information on how to vote absentee or by mail, since the primary will take place several days after the Spring 2010 semester is over and underclassmen move out.
Regardless of political views, Temple students need to vote in this primary. Philadelphia residents have the ability to make or break the political arena here in Pennsylvania – but the city can only be as influential as its voters.
Joshua Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.