Tuesday was Election Day in Pennsylvania, but there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about on the ballot out here in the Philly burbs. The main thing getting decided was who the candidates would be for school board elections in November. Now, my precinct is in my son’s school building, so that seemed fitting. And I know how my precinct votes and has voted in years past. It’s a Republican precinct in an historically Republican county, but it preferred Obama to McCain and Clinton to Trump. Romney carried it 52 percent to 48 percent.
I don’t think you care who won the school board primaries, but you might be interested in the turnout numbers. For the first time in memory, more registered Democrats came to the polls than registered Republicans, and it wasn’t close. In fact, 21% of registered Democrats cast a ballot compared to only 12 percent of registered Republicans. Those are pretty miserable numbers for both sides, obviously, but the 12 percent number is crazy bad.
I know it’s only one data point, but it gives me insight into how my local community is feeling about politics right now. Only the most politically motivated people turn out in local elections like this, and the die-hard Republicans in my neighborhood really did not feel like voting.
Now, in the last couple of school board elections of this type the local Democratic leadership had someone standing outside the polls asking Democrats to vote for a Republican candidate because they’d granted her dual-access to our ballot line since she isn’t all that bad and she was the best we could hope for. And, it’s true, she isn’t bad at all. But, this time, the Democratic candidate came close to doubling the vote of the best performing Republican.
So, if this new voting behavior were to stand, it would eventually change the entire battlefield for our local elections and the makeup of our school board.
I haven’t examined how similar school board elections and turnout numbers looked in the Trumpian parts of Pennsylvania, and that needs to be done to get a full appreciation of how the Trump presidency, with all its problems, is reshaping the politics of the Keystone State. So far, all I know is that my precinct just went nearly two-to-one for a Democratic school board member when in the recent past we couldn’t even field a competitive candidate from our own party.
The Republicans had 12 percent turnout, people. Twelve percent!