Friday, November 1, 2019

Election ~ Judge Candidates

Yesterday I talked about Judge Retentions, but when a seat on the courts is vacated, we have a regular election for judges. If you vote straight party, and want it to apply to judge candidates, you don't need to do anything else. If you want to split your ticket, you need to fill in the ovals for as many candidates as you want but within the limit set. You can write in candidates, too.

If you want to know more about these candidates, I encourage you to look them up on  https://ballotpedia.org (though some aren't listed or have very little information). Here are their names and parties.

SUPERIOR COURT (vote for no more than 2)

Amanda Green-Hawkins, Democrat
Daniel D. McCafferty, Democrat (who showed absolutely no wisdom or prudence when he put DOZENS of ugly campaign posters all over the ground in a public park in my neighborhood ~ I'm guessing he didn't do that in his own neighborhood.)
Megan McCarthy King, Republican
Christylee Peck, Republican

COURT OF COMMON PLEAS (vote for not more than 3)

Melissa Schwartz Sterling, Democrat
Virgil B Walker, Democrat
Henry S. Hilles, III, Democrat
Matthew Hovey, Republican
Gregg Richman, Republican
Robert A. Zigmund, Republican

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Election ~ Judge Retentions

I'll start by reminding you that if you vote straight party, you still MUST flip the ballot over and vote yes or no for all the judge retentions. Don't forget to do it. Also, I apologize for not being able to post an image of the actual ballot on the blog, but Blogger isn't cooperating this morning.

In Pennsylvania, when a judge reaches the end of their 10-year term, they don't have to run against anyone to retain their job. We just vote yes or no, sort of the equivalent of old Roman Coliseum rules: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down. The problem is, all that's listed on the ballot is their name and office. No political party and no other info that would tell us which way these judges would rule on a potentially political or otherwise sensitive case. Those in higher offices might certainly have those kinds of cases come in front of them.

Below is some information on all those running for retention. I've gotten most of the information from Ballotpedia (clink on the link and type the names into the search field for more info on the candidates), but I've also added their political party affiliations at the time of their last election. I've listed any major awards, endorsements that seem to heavily favor one side or the other on major issues, or important rulings. I only mention case details as facts, not judgment calls.

SUPERIOR COURT JUDGES

Anne Lazarus, Democrat. Recipient of the Sandra Day O'Connor Award in 2013 by the Philadelphia Bar.
Judith Olson, Republican. Endorsed by Pennsylvania Pro-Life and Firearm Owners Against Crime.

COMMONWEALTH COURT JUDGES

Kevin Brobson, Republican.  In 2017, he ruled that the 2011 state congressional map, though agreeing that it favored Republicans, was not against the state constitution. The PA Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 2018.
Patricia McCullough, Republican.

COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio, Republican.
Patricia Coonahan, Republican.
Wendy Demchick-Alloy, Republican. Sentenced Attorney General Kathleen Kane to 10 to 23 months in prison and 8 years probation (maximum sentence would have been 12-24 years).
Lois E. Murphy, Democrat.
Garrett D. Page, Republican.
Gary Silow, Republican.
Kelly C. Wall, Republican.

There are your judge retention candidates. I'll do another blog about judges up for election and other candidates.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Folks Who Work At The Courthouse


This election is the one where we vote for those County elected offices who many of us will deal with at some point in our lifetimes ~ Clerk of Courts, Register of Wills, Recorder of Deeds, Prothonotary (filing of other legal documents), Controller (if you owe money to the county or they owe you money ~ they also do payroll for the county). Also if you ever have someone die in your home, even of natural causes, you'll probably meet someone from the Coroner's office. The Treasurer handles county funds and investments, and of course, I hope you'll never have to deal with the District Attorney or Sheriff (which is in charge of transporting prisoners and serving bench warrants, among other duties. It has 7 specialty units and 7 divisions. More info at this link.)

You probably can't get out of meeting the Commissioners at some point. They show up everywhere and talk your ear off.

But you need to take part in the hiring of all these offices by voting.

The current commissioners are Val Arkoosh, Kenneth Lawrence, and Joe Gale. 2 Democrats and a Republican respectively. Fred Conner is the other GOP running. You can google all their names for info. You'll vote for no more than 2 of them.

The other incumbents who are running again are all Democrats. The offices where no incumbents are running are Clerk of Courts and Prothonotary. And again, all candidates can be researched online, though some failed to answer voter guide questions. These office are for the most part, non-partisan in nature. If you're voting straight party for some noble reason, then go into the courthouse to get a marriage license, or record a deed, or close a loved one's estate, and are met with incompetence, well, it may be your own fault for hiring the wrong person in that job. Or for not voting at all.

For instance, one candidate for Coroner is a non-invasive cardiologist (doesn't do surgery) and isn't giving up his medical practice to be coroner. The other has a master's in Forensic Medicine, and has worked as an investigator for the Coroner's office and as a sexual assault ER nurse, and intends to work as Coroner full-time.

In the office of Sheriff, the incumbent is a full-time lawyer who owns his own law firm that serves as township/municipal solicitor to 20 different communities, most of which are in Montgomery County. This is a HUGE conflict of interest (though no politician in the county seems to care). He's a part-time sheriff (collecting the full paycheck). Yet, the challenger is young, but at least has a criminal justice degree and security experience, and she'd be full-time. There's always that write-in line, too.


So do your homework. It's important. And come out to vote on November 5 between 7 am and 8 pm.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Question On The Ballot

As I said in my last diary entry, the ballot in this election includes a state constitutional amendment in the upper right hand corner of the first page. You vote YES or NO by filling in the oval.

Here's how it appears on the ballot (picture, right):

What it means, basically, is that, if it passes, crime victims would be given all the rights listed (and hopefully, they'd be enforced). A similar law passed in California in 2008 and was called Marsy's Law. Crime victims in California are now informed of their "Marsy's Rights" the same way the accussed is given a Miranda warning to inform them of their rights. I'm not sure how this would be enforced in PA but something similar, I imagine.

Remember, if you vote straight party, you still need to answer this question.

Stay tuned for more election information this week.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Election Time Again ~ Sample Ballot

The fall election is a week from Tuesday, on November 5. Those of you who voted last time remember that Montgomery County has switched to a new ballot system, with voters marking a paper ballot with a Sharpie, then feeding it through a scanner themselves to cast their vote.

Why did they switch? The state mandated that all counties get a system that creates a paper ballot that can be recounted by 2020. Our new system is much less tamperproof method than the last. The voter-marked ballot is a primary document not created by a separate machine. Still, if you're unable to fill in a paper ballot due to medical conditions (visual disability, shaking hands, etc.), each polling location has a machine that the disabled can use to create a marked paper ballot. The voter will still scan it themselves.

If you didn't vote last time, I encourage you to come out for this election to try out the new method BEFORE next year's presidential elections. This year, poll workers will have time to answer your questions. Next year, probably not.

So let's look at a sample ballot for this election, in my example pictured, it's Norristown 3-1. (You can find your ballot at this link.  Simply choose your town, then your polling place).

This time around it's TWO-sided: elected offices and a constitutional question on the front. And retention of judges questions on the back (pictured below). 

We've been told that, even if the Sharpie bleeds through the card, when you scan it, your votes will still register correctly because the circles aren't lined up on the front and back of the ballot. And it doesn't matter how you feed in the ballot (either side up, top or bottom first), it will still register.

If you want to vote straight party, that's the first question. Choose the party of your choice and you don't have to fill in the rest of the elected offices (the machine will automatically choose all candidates in the party of your choice). However, you WILL still have to answer the constitutional question on the front and the yes-and-no judges' questions on the back.

If you want to vote straight party except for one or two offices, simply mark the straight party box, then go to the office where you're voting for the other party, mark ALL the candidates you want in that race (for instance, let's say you vote straight Republican, but you want to vote for 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats for School Board—you need to fill out ALL the School Board candidates you want).

One thing that's different from the old voting machines: Back then, if you voted straight party, you could un-vote a candidate running unopposed and basically abstain from that office. You can't do that now. If you don't want to vote for an unopposed candidate, yet vote straight party, WRITE IN another name under that candidate and fill in the circle beside the name you wrote.

Your ballot will no longer be returned by the scanner if you undervote (that is, leave an office or question blank), so proofread your ballot to make sure it's as complete as you want it to be. If you overvote (fill in too many choices for any office), you'll have the choice of getting your ballot back and starting over so you can fix it, or having the scanner negate your vote for the overvoted offices only and otherwise casting your ballot.

It's less complicated than I've made it sound, but like I said, vote this year when we'll have time to help you if you need it.

I'll post more blogs this week about the offices on the ballot and the question.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Not Voting On May 21st? Here's Why You Should

And it has little to do with who's on the ballot. 

A large majority of Montco voters usually choose not to exercise their right to vote in odd-year elections. When the offices are so local that no one hears political ads on TV for the candidates, a lot of voters sometimes have no idea an election is even scheduled.

But this election will be different for Montgomery County residents. Here are 2 sample ballots (You can find your sample ballot at this link.):



If you've voted in the last 20 years, you might note how different these ballots look from what you've seen on the voting machine screens. They're portrait instead of landscape, for one thing. And the illustration shows a hand holding a pen. That's right, for the first time since probably World War II, Montgomery County voters will be handed a PAPER ballot.

You'll be directed to a privacy booth where you'll fill out the ballot manually with a pen. Then you'll take your ballot to a scanning machine and feed the ballot in. When you've cast your vote, the tally is added to a memory card. The paper ballot is saved in a bin under the machine where it can then be used for recounts, if necessary, after the election.

Before accepting your ballot, the machine checks that you've chosen at least one candidate for each office. If you haven't, for each office that you left blank or didn't choose enough candidates, it will ask if you meant to do that. If you didn't, you can get your ballot back, correct it and rescan.

If you've chosen MORE candidates for an office than allowed (say, if you filled 3 ovals under County Commissioner where it only asks for 2), the machine will catch that too, but it's not so easy to correct. You have to start over with a fresh ballot and your other will be voided by a poll worker. If you're in a hurry, you COULD chose to cast the rest of your votes anyway, but that one incorrect vote won't be counted.

See how much fun this is going to be? You don't want to miss this election (think of this year's elections as practice sessions -- you don't want to go through this for the first time next year during the presidential elections).

Here are some ways to help make this process go smoothly:

1. Make sure you're handed the correct ballot for your political party affiliation (only Democrats and Republicans can vote in the primary. Independents, Non-Partisans, and Green Party have to wait until November).

2. Don't tear anything off of your ballot.

3. Don't fold your ballot.

4. Read the entire candidate list for each office before making choices.

5. Fill in the oval beside your choice COMPLETELY. Don't mark with only an X or a check.

6. Only choose the number of candidates you're allowed to choose. You can choose less if you want. You can also write in names if you want.

7. You'll be handed a manila folder for privacy to carry your ballot in when walking to the privacy booth, then to the scanner. HAND the folder AND pen to the machine operator before leaving the building. Each poll location only gets a couple dozen pens. If voters walk out with the pens, they disenfranchise voters coming to vote after them.


So, come vote on May 21 (7 am-8 pm) and try out the new paper ballot system. Be patient with poll workers. This will be their first time with this system, too.

You'll note that candidates for County Commissioner are on this ballot. They're the ones who chose this system. Let them know what you think with your vote (but be careful to research your choices, you could be voting for someone much worse).






Friday, January 18, 2019

MLK Weekend Activities and More

Hopefully the coming storm won't put too much of a damper on the MLK Day of Service activities and other events.

Saturday, 2-3:30 pm, Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library Board Room. Saturday Book Club. This month the book they'll be discussing is either The Innocent Man, by John Grisham or A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline (both are listed on the library calendar. Drop by the Front Desk or call 610-278-5100 x0 to find out which and register. Dr. Hal Halbert of Montgomery County Community College hosts.

Saturday, 7-11 pm, Five Saints Distilling (129 E Main). Jazz 180 will perform. No cover.


Monday, 9 am-1:30 pm, Montco OIC, 1101 Arch. Join the Norristown Project for our annual MLK Day of Service activity at Montgomery County OIC. Each year we select a classroom at our facility to be painted. On January 21st, we will paint our community classroom and after-school classroom. This activity is limited to 40 volunteers, please RSVP to sashe@montcooic.org with the number of volunteers you will bring. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Monday, 9 am-Noon, Norristown Recreation Center. Looking for a great opportunity to tackle litter and beautify the community? Consider joining Keep Norristown Beautiful and Elmwood Park Zoo for our MLK Day of Service Clean-up Event. Register using this link.

Monday 9 am-8 pm, Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library Youth Services Department. MLK Day of Service-Valentines for Veterans. Stop in to make a valentine for a soldier in the veteran’s hospital in Philadelphia. For kids of all ages. Drop in. Children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult. For info contact 610-278-5100 x205.

Wednesday, 1-3:30 pm, Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library Board Room. Mary's Matinee. FREE movie. This showing: "The Children Act." Rated R, 1 hour 45 mins. Drop in. For info, contact Mary Motta, 610-278-5100 x111, mmotta@mclinc.org.