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County Hall Corner: Voting Smart

On Tuesday, May 18th, the Pennsylvania Election Primary will be held for all registered voters who have not already voted by mail. Many voters often skip an off-year primary, but recent events have made this routine election something that should be given serious consideration. There is a lot at stake, and everyone who takes the time to go vote should also take the time to make a meaningful choice in their selections.

So, first off, look at the ballot BEFORE you go to your voting location. This is extremely simple — go to, and under the “departments” heading, scroll down to “Voter Services,” and from there, you will find eight categories under “May 18, 2021, Municipal Primary.” Select your municipality, and you will see the exact ballot that will be given to you when you enter the voting booth.

For example, suppose I live in Loyalsock — the first thing I must do is choose which political party I am voting for since this is a primary election. If the voter is independent and has not registered with a party, they should click on the “Question-Only Sample Ballot for 3rd Party Voters.” Since I am a registered Republican, and after choosing that, I will note that there are seven voting stations in Loyalsock Township. If I live in Precinct 1, I see I will be voting at St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church at 1400 Market Street. If I click on that link, I will see the official ballot.

The first four blocks on the ballot will be standard through all county precincts. They are for a Justice of the Supreme Court (Pennsylvania’s highest court), a judge for the Superior Court (one court lower than the Supreme Court), and two judges for the Commonwealth Court (the court directly above the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas). There are different individuals for each party.

Who are these people? I simply went on Google and typed in their name and the county they were from (which is on the ballot itself) and had no trouble finding information about each one. The importance of the judiciary at all levels means that voters should not skip over these choices or just check off someone because their name looks nice. Think of it this way — if you had a case come before one of these courts, which one of the candidates would you prefer on the bench?

The fourth section and the only county office on the ballot is for sheriff, where the incumbent Mark Lusk is running again and facing a Republican challenger Daniel Strailey from Montoursville Borough. The Democratic ballot has no one running for this position.

Next on the ballot are the local candidates for four-year and two-year positions for School Director, which are members of the school board for that area’s school district. There has been quite a bit of controversy relating to schools during this COVID time, resulting in many new candidates for these positions. Here the research is a bit more difficult because these are not necessarily ‘name’ people but folks who have concerns about their school district and want to empower their voice for those concerns. If a name is unfamiliar, ask a neighbor, friend, or try (as a last resort) social media. The same would be true of other offices such as township supervisor, auditor, tax collector, and constable, which are also on the ballot. Like Mr. Rogers neighborhood, these are the people in your neighborhood, so use your local communication network to find out if they are trustworthy for the positions they are seeking.

And finally, as has been noted in previous columns, the two constitutional amendments related to the governor’s unlimited emergency powers can be limited to 21 days. Only extended by the legislature would require a YES vote for these amendments. A NO vote would continue the present status quo. The third constitutional amendment on the ballot is a Prohibition Against Denial or Abridgment of Equality of Rights Because of Race or Ethnicity, which is very odd as it is already a law; this appears simply as political posturing. The last is a Statewide Referendum Making Municipal Fire and Emergency Medical Services Companies Eligible for Loans, which would allow paid fire companies to have access to low-interest loans already offered by the state for volunteer companies. This is more complicated than it looks, and local fire companies are concerned it may limit the resources available to them.

On Election Day, it is important to remember that if you have any questions about voting or something on the ballot, ask an election worker BEFORE casting your ballot. Once you have cast your vote, it cannot be changed.

Give your vote more clout on Tuesday, May 18th, by making your choices informed selections and not just throwing darts at a dartboard. We get the government we choose — so let’s work to choose the best government possible.

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