Written by Roberta Biros
The 2009 Primary Elections in Mercer County, Pennsylvania were not particularly exciting. In Countywide races, ALL candidates ran unopposed on their own tickets, and most ran unopposed on BOTH tickets. The results of Primary voting in countywide races determined three candidates that will run completely unopposed in November (County Controller, Jury Commissioner-D, and Jury Commissioner-R). Only one race will carry over to the November General Election . . . that being the race for County Treasurer.
This year in Mercer County we also had the delight of selecting candidates for three Magisterial Districts in our fine County. In races for District Judge, candidates had the ability to run on both Primary tickets. In most cases, they did. When the final votes were counted, the winners from the Democratic ticket and the Republican ticket in each district were the SAME candidate in all three races. In essence (and at this point), the candidates will all be running against themselves in the November General Election (District 35-2-01 Judge: Dennis Songer (D) vs. Dennis Songer (R); District 35-3-02 Judge: Neil McEwin (D) vs. Neil McEwin (R); and District 35-3-03 Judge: Brian Arthur (D) vs. Brian Arthur (R)].
[you can read a complete summary of the 2009 Primary for Mercer County HERE]
It is true that the results of the election were unexciting, and it leaves the prospect of turnout for General Election to be drastically low. However, the election process “is what it is”. It is an established procedure that is clearly outlined and enforced to ensure “a fair election process”. There are specific rules in place for “running for office” [read the document provided by the State of Pennsylvania HERE], and there is an Election Calendar that is followed to the letter by the Elections Bureau [read the full calendar as published by the State of Pennsylvania HERE]. These standards were put in place to guarantee a fair and open election process.
It seems that those in power in Mercer County feel that the election process simply isn’t important any more. According to an article in The Herald this morning [READ HERE], Mercer County President Judge Francis Fornelli wants to just skip the legal election process in Mercer County and jump ahead by simply appointing the District Judges (since they have apparently “already won” their elections). The Herald states “Fornelli has been in touch with our county’s state representatives and the county chairmen of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Fornelli is hopeful they can help push Rendell to make the appointments and lighten the heavy load on our area.”
Well then . . . why don’t we just call the election now in ALL of the races? The District Judges have already APPARENTLY won their races . . . the Controller and Jury Commissioners are running unopposed . . . and the incumbent Treasurer figures that she has this one in the bag too. Why not just let Governor Rendell call ALL of the races now and skip the “unnecessary” semantics and “worthless” gyrations and effort of a General Election completely!
Why not? Allow me to explain . . . because it isn’t for the Governor to appoint “elected officials”. That is the job of the VOTERS. According to the established procedures for elections, the “game isn’t over until the fat lady sings” . . . and I’m NOT SINGIN’! If you look closely at the election rules and calendar, there is a process in place where candidates are determined for the Republican and Democratic tickets through the Primary Election, but the FINAL decision is made in November during the General Election. Between the time of the Primary and the General Elections, changes can be made, candidates can change (through withdrawals and party appointments), and INDEPENDENT candidates have the opportunity to enter the fray. It is not until August 3rd (of this election year) that Independent candidates file their nomination papers. It is not until August 10th that candidates that don’t wish to run in November are required to withdraw their names from the General Election Ballot. It is not until September 14th (of this election year) that political parties can name replacement nominees. It is not until September 17th (of this election year) that objections can be filed against nomination certificates. Most importantly . . . it is not until November 3rd that the VOTERS get to cast their final ballots to determine who the winners of each of the races will be.
At the point that a judge (in this case, Judge Francis Fornelli) feels that it is proper and legal to circumvent the elections process and simply allow the Governor to appoint “elected officials” without the final vote and approval of the citizenry, “We the People” are no longer in charge. The last I checked, “We the People” are the ones who make that decision . . . not a judge . . . and certainly not a Governor!
I find the suggestion of such an act to be a slap in the face of the VOTERS in this County. If you are similarly concerned, voice your opinion. Don’t allow leaders in Harrisburg to appoint our “elected officials”. Comments and complaints can be forwarded to any and all of the following:
Hon. Robert D. Robbins
337 Capitol Building
Senate Box 203050
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3050
(717) 787-1322Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Michele Brooks
153B East Wing
PO Box 202017
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2017
Fax: (717) 705-1948Email: email@example.com
Hon. Mark Longietti
103 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202007
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2007
Fax: (717) 780-4785Email: MLongietti@pahouse.net
Hon. Richard R. Stevenson
155B East Wing
PO Box 202008
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2008
Fax: (717) 705-1949
The Honorable Judge Francis J. Fornelli
Mercer County Courthouse
North Diamond Street
Mercer, PA 16137
(724)-662-3800 ext. 2521
Governor Edward G. Rendell’s Office
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
Phone: (717) 787-2500
Fax: (717) 772-8284
Mercer County Voter Registration and Election Bureau
Jeffrey W. Greenburg, Director
5 Mercer County Courthouse
Mercer, PA 16137
Telephone (724) 662-3800 or (724) 962-5711
FAX (724) 662-1530