I just left the poll, having cast my votes for the various officials hoping to be elected today. I feel that I was well-informed regarding the different candidates for whom I could vote: President, state treasurer, attorney general, representative, etc.
I am quite bothered, however, by the referendums/items that appear on the ballot. There were four in my district — one about the commonwealth borrowing $400 million for utilities, one about combining the Fairmount Park Commission and Department of Recreation, one about the city incurring a debt of $53 million for capital improvements, and one about giving preferential treatment for civil service jobs to people who have lived in Philly for at least one year prior to their civil service examination.
What bothers me is that the only item I had even heard of prior to just now is the item proposing the formation of a new Department of Parks and Recreation. I am a pretty plugged in person who reads the newspaper every day and otherwise is able to get information promptly and accurately. If I know nothing about these items, then I am going to assume that neither do the majority of voters in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania — and I’m sure there are similar items on the ballot today in cities and states throughout the US.
My decisions and vote about each item were based on reading the difficult language on the ballot and trying to figure out the Pros and Cons of each, doing so uninformed and while under pressure to expedite my turn in the voting booth. Since I assume most of Philly and Pennsylvania is in a similar situation in terms of familiarity with these items, this means that $453 million dollars, employment decisions, and management of the largest park system in the world (as well as recreation sites) are being decided based on…nothing!
Individual candidates spend a lot of money on advertisements to make sure their messages are heard and their faces are seen. It is understandable that a ballot item cannot raise money, but there has to be some other way to make sure voters are aware of the items and their issues. I saw only the aforementioned Parks and Recreation item even mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, but no information about other than “Mayor Nutter says we should vote ‘yes’ on this question.”
Does this bother anyone else?
I finally found a resource with more information for those in Philly. The Committee of Seventy, which describes itself as “Political watchdog group and nonpartisan research and election information source for the Philadelphia metropolitan area,” offers a resource on the different Philadelphia ballot questions.