I know a lot of independent voters.  People in the community who vote based on issues and candidates rather than political party, and who– as a result– are uncomfortable registering officially as a Democrat or Republican.   In fact, I was one of those people until just a couple of years ago.

But then I learned how the Democrats and Republicans in Pennsylvania have conspired to keep independent voices out of our local school board elections.  This changed my mind.  And if you are an independent voter, I want to take at least one stab at changing your mind too.  

Here I go…

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artwork: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

Pennsylvania law requires that school board elections be “non-partisan.”  This means that being a Republican or a Democrat or anything else isn’t supposed to matter in school board races.   The problem is that this isn’t how school board elections are actually run.  In practice, Pennsylvania interprets “non-partisan” to allow only that school board candidates can run as both a Republican and a Democrat at the same time in primary elections– what is known as cross-filing.  Because Pennsylvania also has closed primaries, this means that anyone who isn’t a registered Democrat or Republican is EXCLUDED from voting in these critical school board races.

I say critical because local elections are where your voice makes the most difference as a voter.  Critical too because in the East Penn School District, who wins and who loses school board races is almost ALWAYS decided in the primary election. 

Do you see what the major political parties have done there?  By limiting voting in school board primary races to only registered Democrats and Republicans, they cut out the voice of independent voters completely.  And given that primary voters of both major parties tend to be more ideological and more extreme than the general population, this means we get more ideological and more extreme school board members as a result.

Independents, we need your voice back in the process!  This is why I urge you to officially register with the state as a Democrat or a Republican.  This is the only way to make your vote count.  Doing so doesn’t define your identity or how you vote.  But under current election rules, it DOES define whether you can vote at all in the upcoming school board primaries on May 16th.   This is something I’m passionate about, because I believe we need independent voices on our school board that will make careful decisions based on the facts, rather than simply repeating partisan talking points at local school board meetings.  

The deadline for registering– including officially changing your party status- is April 17th.  You can do it easily online right now at: https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx

So, did I convince you?  Don’t let the major political parties use your independence to keep your voice out of our school district.  Register as a Democrat or Republican today!

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Register by April 17th to participate in the May primary election.



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2 thoughts to “Independent Voters Read This!

  • Ted Dobracki

    It is unfortunate that PA doesn’t have non-partisan school board elections, like many other states do. Time for some reform!

    It actually is possible for a non-party member to run for school board in PA, but the two entrenched parties make it harder for one to do that. When I did that (successfully in 1989), instead of getting only 10 signatures to get on the primary ballot like party members do, I had to get about 125 registered voters to sign my petition to get on the general election ballot as a candidate on my own political body’s party line. (actually, more technically, it was 1% of the highest votes received by a candidate for the same office in the last election). It was a challenge to do that during the one month window allowed during the summer, but I got to talk with a lot of people and hear their views.

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  • Ruth Dex

    Although it would be great to have open primaries in Pennsylvania, that may be awhile before that happens.
    In the meantime couples can register in each party in order to support good candidates for school boards. My husband and I have done this over the years. Independents unfortunately limit their say by not being able to vote in primaries.

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