Election Day is fast approaching and once again you will be asked to vote the party line. For those we entrust with our votes an oath swearing to defend and protect the U. S. Constitution and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will ultimately be administered to those claiming victory. All too often, though, the swearing in ceremonies have become nothing more than that: mere ceremonies. A good photo op. Hollow words and an empty promise. I have publicly suggested that when taking their oath of office some legislators would be better served by replacing the Bible with their party playbook. At least then we would know what they were swearing to uphold and defend, and for some it is not our constitutions, but rather the interests of their political parties. One such legislator is Senator Lloyd K. Smucker, from District 13, representing the Lancaster area. Senator Smucker also happens to chair the State Government Committee.
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania reads as follows:
WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
Declaration of Rights
That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and unalterably established, WE DECLARE THAT –
Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.
The Constitution makes clear that elections shall be “free and equal.” Pretty simple, one would think. For those familiar with elections in Pennsylvania it is common knowledge that they are anything but free and equal. Ask any independent voter (comprising the fastest growing electorate in Pennsylvania) why it is that not only can they not participate in the Primary Election, but they must also suffer their tax dollars being used to help select the candidates the Republicans and Democrats wish to appear on the November ballot.
Talk about taxation without representation.
Is this a way of forcing someone to join a party . . . to enable them to participate in the political process? I say, yes. If I told you that you had to join the Moose or Elks club before you were allowed to vote, would you say, “Sure”? Why is it different when the Democrats and Republicans employ that same method. Let me be clear: the two political clubs have every right to choose whomever they wish; they just shouldn’t use others’ money to do so.
Let’s now turn to the issue of independents and third parties. We’ve all heard of the disproportionate signatures needed for independent and third party candidates to obtain ballot access as compared to Republicans and Democrats. We’ve all heard of the insane petitions challenges and reasons to keep independents off the ballot. It’s nothing less than economic intimidation, as I have dubbed it, to be compelled to pay to defend against challenges to ballot inclusion. I can assure you the horror stories are true, but all that would not matter if only our elected officials took their oaths seriously. Might I refer back to Article 1, Section 5: Elections shall be free and equal. What is it about that statement that a two-year-old can understand but our entrenched politicians cannot?
One such Pennsylvania senator took his oath to heart and introduced SB 195, known as the Voters’ Choice Act. That senator is Mike Folmer from the Lebanon area. In short, the bill would make getting on the ballot equal for all. A brief description of the measure from the Pennsylvania legislature’s website:
An Act amending the act of June 3, 1937 (P.L.1333, No.320), known as the Pennsylvania Election Code, in party organization, further providing for definition of political parties and political bodies; and, in nomination of candidates, further providing for nominations by minor political parties and for nominations by political bodies.
Back to Smucker. Senate Bill 195 has been sitting in the State Government Committee since January 17, 2013, with no action. The last time anyone from Senator Smucker’s office spoke with the Independent Gazette was almost a year ago. Matt Parido, the Senator’s chief of staff, told me then that their schedule was very busy, and was not sure if this bill would come up for consideration.
Of course it would not, swearing to uphold the Constitutions would need to take a back burner to more important issues, like making the third Saturday in June National Freedom Day.
The Gazette is in the process of polling all our current state senators, and to date 13 have replied that they would vote “yes” on this bill if it’s allowed to come to a floor vote. We can only assume there is but one NO vote, that being Senator Smucker, but once again, numerous calls to Senator Smucker’s office have not been returned with a simple yea or nay concerning whether or not he supports free and equal elections.
As you head to the polls this November, please consider those candidates willing to speak out. Evaluate them not by the letter next to their name but by the principles they hold dear.
I leave you with this:
“Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular — but one must take it simply because it is right.”
—Martin Luther King
The time has come to put the politics aside and do what is right . . . make elections in Pennsylvania free and equal for all.