HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – At the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Voter Hall of Fame, you’ll find this quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower, “the future of the Republic is in the hands of the voter.”
A pencil in the hands of the voter could also be significant.
On Tuesday, Democrats in the 31st state senatorial district delivered nearly 2,500 write-ins during the primary election. That’s the race where state Rep. Mike Regan (R-York) soundly defeated former NFL football player Jon Ritchie and dentist Brice Arndt.
But Ritchie may not be done. Two things need to happen for Ritchie to be on the November ballot as a Democrat: he needs at least 500 write-in votes, and he needs a majority of the write-in votes.
Both of those things are likely, though nothing is official yet, as election officials in Cumberland and York Counties work to certify the results. But even if Ritchie can get on the fall ballot and repeat his fight with Regan, it is unclear, perhaps unlikely, that he will.
Democrats never win in the 31st and it would be another bruising campaign for Ritchie and his family. He wasn’t available for comment Wednesday and his campaign spokesman said he’s spending time with family, but there is a bit of conflicting data. In a statement to supporters last night, Ritchie concluded, “I plan to stay involved in the political process.”
But during an April 10 Cumberland County GOP debate moderated by ABC27’s Dennis Owens, all four candidates were directly asked if they’d run as a Democrat if they collected enough write-in votes. All four said no.
The tone of the race was certainly negative, especially between Regan and Ritchie. But fourth-place finisher Scott Harper saved his worst for last, telling ABC27’s Karissa Shatzer, “The voters say they are tired of corruption, special interests calling the shots, and rich lobbyists controlling state government, yet they overwhelmingly vote in Mike Regan. All I can say is good luck with that.”
“You elected another Scott Wagner puppet,” Harper said. “Good luck Central PA, it’s going to get worse before it ever gets better.”
Tuesday provided ample proof that every vote counts. In the Dauphin County Republican primary for state Senate, John DiSanto won by just 632 votes.York Republican Dawn Keefer won a state House primary by just 658. And in the Lancaster County Democratic primary for Congress, William Golderer won by just eight votes.
There were, inexplicably, two ballot questions to consider, but only one will count. Philadelphia’s traffic court will be abolished. Because it was created by the state Constitution, it takes a statewide constitutional action to eliminate it.
Because a court ruling came down too late for many counties to remove it, the question about raising the mandatory retirement age of judges from 70 to 75 appeared on the ballot and failed.
But it will get a do-over in November.
Pennsylvania spent more than $1 million advertising its ballot questions in newspapers. It will have to do that again in the fall.
Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, who oversees elections, supports putting ballot questions in general elections.
“I can see that being fair because in the general everybody can vote, not just those registered with the major parties,” he said.
But it’s still worth asking who, exactly, thought it was a good idea to put an important ballot question on a primary ballot when third-party voters don’t typically show up, instead of placing it before general election voters?
“Clearly, that’s where it should have been in the first place,” Rep. John Payne (R-Dauphin) said. “How it got there? Let me you know when you find out because I don’t know either.”
It’s a million dollar mistake, not to mention a common sense gaffe. Hopefully, that wasted money will lead to a crystal-clear policy moving forward that ballot questions go only to general elections.
Cortes said there were a handful of problems Tuesday with voters who thought they were registered, only to find they were not and couldn’t vote. He said overall, things went smoothly and 3.3 million Pennsylvanians, or about 40 percent, cast ballots; much better, he said, than the 2012 presidential primary when only about 20 percent bothered to vote.