Is voting public turned off by political corruption?

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The “Vote Here” signs announced the place. Big, white arrows directed the way to the Hampden Township Fire Department. But only stragglers showed up for Tuesday’s special election in Cumberland County to fill a vacant seat in the state House.

Nathan Kinney is one of them.

“You gotta take your right to vote seriously,” said Kinney, who appeared to be a 20-something, with pride.

But election officials say they’d be happy with a 12-percent voter turnout for the special election.

Twelve percent!

While fewer and fewer voters exercise their right to vote, more and more elected elected officials are read their rights or are under investigation for wrongdoing.

A partial list from recent weeks and months is staggering and it certainly feels like corruption in the commonwealth is an epidemic:

  • Pennsylvania’s senior congressman from Philadelphia, Chaka Fattah
  • Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed
  • Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski
  • Magisterial District Justice Robert Jennings
  • State Treasurer Rob McCord

The prime watchdog agency for political corruption is the state’s attorney general.

Kathleen Kane is also under suspicion.

“It’s frustrating, it really is,” said Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), the minority leader, who says it’s tougher for elected officials to engage the public when it’s enraged by corruption and wrongdoing.

“Unfortunately, you end up with a couple of folks who make unwise decisions through this process and the public loses faith in public officials broadly, and that’s unfortunate,” Costa said.

Also unfortunate: $60,000 in taxpayer money was spent on an election in which few participate. One theory suggests voters are overwhelmingly disillusioned by politicians gone bad and just ignore the ballot box.

“I don’t know if that’s the reason,” said Carol Galati of Hampden Township, who did show up to vote. “People get into politics, they maybe lose sight of the goal they had and things happen.”

Hampden’s Dick Freyser also made it to the polls. “I’m from  Chicago, vote early and vote often,” Freyser said with a laugh. But then he got serious. “Nobody likes it. You get kind of fed up with it and tired of it. But that’s life as we know it.”

Sadly, life as we know it means an election in which a 12-percent turnout is considered acceptable.

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