They would not let me vote last Tuesday.
The four ladies at the Sigel Community Center in Eldred Township, Jefferson County, all smiled sweetly, albeit a bit forced when I announced, “I am a Libertarian.” Hereabouts, most election workers are also fervent Democrats or Republicans.
That makes sense. Why else would they work a 14-hour day for what amounts to a teeny compensation, plus attend training sessions? Why else would they remain friendly at my lame jokes about being denied my right to vote? By and large, election workers here are firm believers in the Constitution, in the electoral process and in the integrity of the system. I can’t speak for Philadelphia, but here, things are on the up-and-up.
So I was denied. There were no Libertarian candidates on the ballot. There were no Constitutional questions or other non-partisan items to be decided.
I waited while my wife typed and check marked her way through the Democratic Party ballot.
Two years ago, I had been a Democrat. Then, I had also been a Republican. That was due to Pennsylvania’s “closed primaries.” I wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders (actually, against Hillary Clinton) because I disagree with her on questions of character.
Bernie lost. Hillary won.
Then Donald Trump won the Republican primary election. I could not vote for or support a man I have called a liar, a bully and a welsher in print. (Yes, yes; Trump has not done a half-bad job as President. I just cannot stomach him as a person.)
So there I was, staring the 2016 general election in the face. And there sat Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Johnson had done a pretty good job as a two-term New Mexico governor. He is a pleasant fellow, perhaps aided in that regard by the wafting smoke of marijuana, which he sold — legally — and admittedly smoked. He had no idea where the nearly 1 million population of Aleppo lived (Answer: Syria), but I would not kick him out of my house, though I would tell either Hillary or Donald to get off my property.
I switched my registration to Libertarian. To back up that gesture, I actually sent dues payments to the state and national Libertarian parties, $25 apiece. That got me membership cards. They come in handy when readers accuse me of being a “pinko liberal” (Are you paying attention, Courier-Express Editor David Sullens?) or “to the right of Attila the Hun?” (Are you paying attention, my beloved spouse Maryellen?)
Libertarians generally are socially liberal, financially conservative and strict Constitutional constructionists. So am I, most of the time.
But last Tuesday, the Libertarian registration card would have done me no good.
I am a taxpayer. My tax money pays for the primary elections held every spring, as well as for the general elections held each year in November.
So why shouldn’t I be allowed to vote? Why does not Pennsylvania have an “open primary,” as do several other states, where voters can choose one or another party and vote for that party’s nominees?
Isn’t that a good idea?
I do like some recent suggestions for making it easier for people to vote. I favor “early voting,” perhaps a weeklong window, perhaps 10 days. I favor being able to get absentee ballots on request, without having to say (truthfully or not) that I would be out of town on Election Day.
On the other side, I favor being required to show a government-issued photo identification card when voting, or to include a photocopy of that ID if a ballot is mailed in. Given today’s plethora of smartphones, scanners, copiers, etc., that should be easily enough accomplished.
But I do not favor an “open primary.”
I think that defeats the concept of “party,” as in a group of people uniting around common principles to accomplish specific governmental ends or implement coherent philosophical principles of governance.
Instead — this is somewhat radical — I think Pennsylvania should get out of the primary election business altogether for federal offices and statewide offices. Heck, the candidates are nearly all rich plutocrats anyway, and the ones who are not are backed by rich plutocrats.
Let the parties pay their own expenses for polling their registered members to select nominees, via postal mail, on line, however.
In 2016, the Democrats rigged their Presidential primary process and delegate selections so that Hillary’s nomination was guaranteed. Republicans have done similar stuff at the statewide and national level.
So let the parties pay for their own coronations ... Oops! ... Nominations.
Then, with just one election per year, we’ll avoid all the political hogwash in TV ads, and even we Libertarians can feel like we are a part of the political process.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com (And yes, Denny, David Sullens was listening, but will continue to refer to you as a “commie pinko liberal” because, at his age, attempting to irritate you is one of the few pleasures left him.)