Politics & Government

Primary could settle major races

The May 15 election is more important than most municipal primary elections in Centre County because three fiercely contested races will be shaped, and possibly decided, by it.

The contests for a new county judge, a new magisterial district judge and five State College Area school board members will surely attract more voters than any of the county’s previous primaries — municipal, presidential or otherwise.

But that’s not saying much. The record, in the past 10 years anyway, isn’t hard to top. It could be broken with a mere 21,711 Republicans and Democrats in all going to the polls. That would mean that the election of people to direct what happens in our courtrooms and classrooms will be made by only one of every four registered voters.

The election decisions could be virtually settled in the May 15 voting because state law considers judicial and school board seats to be nonpolitical and allows candidates to try to capture both major-party nominations in the primary.

If the same candidate wins the nomination of Democratic voters on the Democratic ballot and wins the nomination of Republican voters on the Republican ballot, that double win virtually assures victory because the candidate’s name will appear as the nominee of both parties on the one and only Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The people left out of this important decision-making process will include Republicans and Democrats who don’t vote in primary elections because they think there’s often not much at stake there.

Those left out also will include Centre County residents who are registered as nonaffiliated. There are a lot of them — nearly 13,000, or 15 percent of the electorate — and they cannot vote in the Republican or Democratic primary.The state deems these crucial offices nonpolitical but then bars voters who themselves have shunned the politics of both major parties and want to remain neutral.

With all of those registered voters left out of the process, who’s left in?

The insiders — those who’ll be making the decisions for the vast majority of others — are the “supervoters,” so named because they always vote, in the spring primary and the fall general elections.Candidates arm themselves with supervoters’ names and addresses and head out to the neighborhoods to knock on doors, cherry-picking homes with potential.

How do you get in on this fun? How do you help decide who gets elected to administer a county courtroom, or see grass-roots justice in College, Ferguson, Halfmoon and Patton townships, or direct the county’s biggest school district?

It takes an errand or two, and you have until April 16 to do it.

April 16 is the last day you can either register to vote if you’re not already registered, or change your registration from nonaffiliated (or anything else) to Republican or Democrat. The forms are in libraries, municipal buildings and other public places. Call the county elections office at 355-6703 for more information.

The other errand is going to your polling place and voting on May 15.

The Election Notebook, coordinated by Centre Daily Times senior reporter Mike Joseph, will appear every Monday in the CDT until the May 15 primary election. Joseph can be reached at mjoseph@centredaily.com and 235-3910.