Erie municipal general election scheduled for November 2
When it comes to voter turnout in municipal elections, Erie is part of the national trend. As the New York Times reports, on average, only 27 percent of local people go to the polls when their local elections are on the ballot. In the May 2021 municipal primary election, just under 30% of eligible voters in Erie County voted.
But when it comes to electing the nation’s chief executive, turnout has more than doubled. A year earlier, when Democratic candidate Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump, incumbent Republican Erie was again in line with national voter turnout averages.
The low turnout in municipal elections continues to be the study of foundations, media and think tanks nationwide. Some argue that voters believe there is more at stake in electing presidents, senators, governors and congressional representatives. Others argue that getting to the polls is too difficult. A myriad of recommendations and solutions have been and continue to be offered.
In Pennsylvania, the PA Voter Reform Act 77, signed by Governor Tom Wolf in 2019, opened the process of voting by mail ballot without excuse. With only the 2020 election and the 2019 primaries on the books, it’s hard to say for now that in Erie this had a profound impact on increasing overall voter turnout.
The challenge of getting voters to the polls is not unique to a party. Five months ago, in Erie’s primary election, just under 34% of registered Democrats voted. For Republicans, it was nearly 32 percent.
The reason for the low turnout this year will not be because a reputable local race is not on the ballot. This year, Erie is in the process of determining who will go down in history as the county’s seventh highest-ranking ruler.
Its sixth and current county executive, Kathy Dahlkemper, has chosen not to run despite being eligible for an additional four-year term under the county’s three-term limit policy. The former congressman, who defeated incumbent Democrat Barry Grossman in 2013 and later Republican Don Tucci in the general election, made history in 2017. By defeating Republican challenger Art Oligeri, she only became as the second Erie County executive in Erie history to serve more than one term. . The other, Democrat Judy Lynch, served five terms in a time before the term limit.
Dr Tyler Titus, a mental health professional and small business owner, emerged from a group of four candidates in the spring after a four-headed election night that dragged on the next day as the ballots were cast. were still being counted. Titus, who made history as the first openly transgender person elected in Pennsylvania, is currently chairman of the Erie school board during his first term and would make history again if elected, thus becoming the first openly transgender person to be elected to the county executive. .
Brenton Davis, an Army veteran and small business owner, is also looking to make history by doing what hasn’t been done in 20 years: winning a bid for the County Executive. Erie as a Republican.
Since Richard Schenker, who served a term from 2002 to 2006, Democrats have occupied the seat. Of the six executives so far, only one other Republican has served – the very first elected county executive, Russell Robison, who was elected in 1977 after Erie County passed its charter of autonomy. Of the 11 terms served since Robison’s inauguration in 1978, Democrats have served nine and Republicans have served two.
The 2021 election marks Davis’ second candidacy for the county executive. Defeated by Art Oligeri in the 2017 primary, Davis defeated his only primary challenger in 2021, first-time contestant Shawn Wroblewski, an East Erie County Emergency Medical Services paramedic.
Wroblewski supported Titus. But that was not the only endorsement from all parties. Rita Bishop, who ran for the 7th District County Council seat in 2019 but lost to Republican Ellen Schauerman and finished last in the Democratic four-way contest in May, approved Davis.
Will these riders move the needle? It’s hard to say. Will potential future endorsements make a difference? It’s also hard to tell, but it’s worth watching.
In other races, it may be more difficult to discern the differences between the behavior, experience and political positions of candidates. The 2021 county executive candidates draw stark contrasts that are expected to become more apparent as election day draws near.
Something else to watch out for: advertisements. Both contestants launched in a positive way, with TV commercials promoting themselves and their campaigns. So far, only Davis has gone negative with an ad he approved that attacks Titus.
Titus has since responded on social media, posting that upon seeing the new negative publicity from their opponent, their 8-year-old son said, “Daddy, that makes me wanna cry. Can we have an ad that says don’t not believe Brenton and follow your dreams, be yourself and never give up? ” To which Titus responds in the post: “Better yet: we can have a whole campaign that says that.”
There are plenty of other things to watch out for ahead of the election – additional debates (the first was toned down with the two candidates remaining calmly in their lanes), campaign finance reports (to see the impact of the fundraising local and external in a race attracting outside attention given Erie’s status as a continuous indicator), coalition building within parties, coalition building on both sides (since Pennsylvania remains a closed primary state and support can only come out of the polls in May), and more. And, there are plenty of other races to watch.
With the ousting of Democrat John Morgan in his candidacy for reelection in the primary, Millcreek will have a new face for the Millcreek Township Supervisor after voters defeated John Groh in a previous electoral cycle. There will also be a new sheriff in town. And both councils – the City of Erie and the County Council of Erie will be replenished, with some incumbents not seeking re-election and others losing their main candidacy.
And there are the school boards. And there are … well, there are many things that should motivate more than a third of the 86,462 registered Democrats and 66,976 registered Republican voters to go to the polls to elect those who rule closest to them.
To be clear, there is literally millions of additional reasons. In the county alone, there are 275 million reasons to which $ 275 million is attached, as the next pandemic relief aid from the Biden administration’s US back-up plan will soon arrive in the county where elected officials will oversee the way these funds are injected across the country. Region.
There is always a lot at stake in elections. But never before have there been so many local elections in modern history.
Will this be enough to bring voter turnout in a municipal election down to the same level as a presidential election? If not now, when, if ever?
Rather than catch the eye of those who wish to predict who might win in the 2022 midterm and the 2024 presidential election, Erie might catch the eyes of a nation to study as a model where voters hold their elections. local elections in the same sense – if not higher – than that of voting for presidents, senators, representatives and governors. Maybe it’s time for Erie to turn the national tide and become a trailblazer. We are ready to make history if we choose to do so.