Today is Election Day. In Lancaster County, we will choose a president and vice president, a U.S. senator, a U.S. representative in the 16th Congressional District, a state attorney general, state auditor general and state treasurer, a state senator in the 13th District and representatives to the state General Assembly. We’ll also be asked whether we favor extending the retirement age of state judges from 70 to 75. The polls are open in Lancaster County from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
This is it. After the seemingly endless campaign, we’ve made it, finally, to Election Day.
If you’re like us, you’re battling a deluge of feelings: relief, anticipation, trepidation, concern. This has been the most anxiety-producing election season in memory.
And, yes, we know there have been contentious elections in the past. Indeed, Broadway’s hottest musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” tells the story of one in particular — the election of 1800: “Jefferson or Burr?/ We know, it’s lose-lose/Jefferson or Burr?/But if you had to choose?”
At that time, the candidate with the most electoral votes became president; the candidate with the second-most became vice president.
Incumbent John Adams (with running mate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney) was running against Thomas Jefferson. But Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr actually tied each other in the vote, so the House of Representatives had to choose between them.
Jefferson ultimately won, and four years later, the 12th Amendment was ratified, making president and vice president distinct choices on the ballot.
We recount this story for two reasons: First, it’s fascinating (and yes, we sheepishly admit, we’re hoping the “Hamilton” hook piques your interest). And second, a great deal of effort — a lot of blood, sweat and tears —went into creating our electoral system.
So please vote today.
If you go to your polling place, and the line is long, please try to wait it out. If someone tries to discourage you from voting, notify an elections official. If you’re registered to vote, don’t be deterred from exercising that fundamental right.
It would be great if Election Day was a federal holiday, to give people time not only to vote, but to celebrate the essential civic rite that is voting.
At the very least, it would be good if the day was cleared of other nonessential activities — high school sports, for instance.
We’re all for athletics — they teach discipline, teamwork, character and, hopefully, the importance of lifelong fitness.
But why would the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association schedule the start of state championship tournaments for high school boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, field hockey and girls’ volleyball for this afternoon and evening?
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a voting leave law, so employers aren’t obligated to give voters time off — paid or unpaid — to exercise their civic duty.
For many parents, that leaves either the early morning or evening to vote. If you’re busy in the morning and then have to choose between seeing your child in the first round of the playoffs or making your way to the polls, what do you do? And what if you need to travel some distance to see your child’s game?
It’s unfair to put parents in that spot. And it’s not just parents who might be affected by this: Athletes of voting age might be faced with the same dilemma. And coaches. And referees. And any other of the hordes of people needed to staff playoff events.
In our view, this was a bad call by the PIAA, one that conveys misplaced priorities and a lack of good sense.
According to a 2014 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, the top reason Americans don’t vote is because we’re “too busy.”
Alas, the PIAA has made Election Day even busier.
In Pennsylvania, elections require we set aside just 13 hours on a single day. And presidential elections are held just once every four years.
The very least we could do is to treat Election Day with some sort of reverence.
“The right to vote is precious and almost sacred and one of the most important blessings of our democracy,” says Rep. John Lewis, whose skull was fractured by law enforcement officers as he marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965 on behalf of voting rights.
He’s right, of course.
The endless campaign for this high-stakes election has an end after all. Celebrate that fact by voting today.