Democracy under threat nationally & in Upper Gwynedd, too - Vote by mail now, or in person on Nov 2nd, 2021
Trump has been replaced by Trumpism here in PA and in Upper Gwynedd
By Faith Keiser, Democratic Committeewoman, Upper Gwynedd-6 October 2, 2021
I am not a pessimist by nature. However, I’ve lived awhile. I’ve noticed that approximately once a generation America goes through a political revolution. Some revolutions are noisy and obvious, like the one in the 1960s, and some are quieter, like the Reagan revolution, which ushered in small government, trickle-down economics, and a disastrous ”war on drugs” with its resulting mass incarceration. (The U.S. still imprisons a 7 times greater percent of its population than any other Western nation, most of them black and brown persons.)
Trumpism takes the bullying that has been evident in the African-American and immigrant communities for years, and applies it to all people who espouse principles of non-racism, taking “dog-whistle” politics and making it a siren. This is so much more than just the failed, one-term Presidency of a loudmouth and a bully. It’s a fascist movement that threatens the harmony of our communities, especially if gerrymandering and election rigging by Republicans are successful in the future.
There are already attempts underway in Pennsylvania to recount the 2020 vote, and to gerrymander every district from the results of the 2020 census. The leader of these efforts, PA Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, will likely run for PA Governor in 2022. If he’s successful, this could even be a springboard for a later run for the White House.
The Pennsylvania Republican recount effort was stopped by County Election officials, including Republican county officials, who just purchased new election machines recently, and do not want to purchase new ones, should an Arizona-style Cyber Ninjas in Pennsylvania compromise the machines’ integrity. Since Pennsylvania still has a Democratic Secretary of State, she would de-certify any election machines that fell into hands outside of the county election officials themselves. (In Arizona, the machines were ushered to an undisclosed location out of state, so the Democratic Secretary of State de-certified all those machines, costing the counties millions of dollars to replace the machines.)
The PA gerrymandering efforts will be stopped by the Democratic majority in the PA Supreme Court that YOU voted into power in an off-year election in 2017! This is why the Republican-controlled PA Congress recently tried to bring a ballot question in the off-year primary of May 2021 (historically the lowest turnout for Democrats, so the measure would have passed) that would make the PA Supreme Court justices voted in by districts, instead of statewide, as they are now.
Pennsylvania Republicans are angling for a way to gerrymander the heck out of our state, and have a Republican-controlled PA Supreme Court when they do, that would rubberstamp their new map, to take away your voice in Congress.
When we have a Republican Secretary of State of Pennsylvania, which we may have as of 2023, there may be a CyberNinjas-style election audit in Pennsylvania that threatens the integrity of the voting machines. With no Democratic election official to de-certify the machines, you will not be able to trust that your vote will be properly counted on any election machines, and expensive paper audits may become routine. This dystopian future is very close at hand, if you do not vote in every election to keep a Democrat in charge of the office of Pennsylvania Secretary of State.
This is not even mentioning Pennsylvania’s voter intimidation effort to require counties to turn over the last four digits of everyone’s social security number. Our Democratic Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, is fighting that one in court (and will most likely win) but, geez, you can see how quickly all of this will devolve into anarchy if Republicans are allowed to take control of all levers of power in Pennsylvania.
This is why it’s so important for Democrats to vote in every election, especially off-year Primaries in May, (such as the one we just had this spring) which is the time that Republican officials slip in objectionable ballot questions.
This year - it could have been worse - the Pennsylvania Governor lost his ability to declare a state of emergency and, say, order mask mandates for more than 30 days without approval from the Pennsylvania Legislature. That’s why recent mask mandates in Pennsylvania are by order of the PA Department of Health, not the Governor’s office…My fear is that Pennsylvania Democrats are expending a lot of political capital on mask mandates, and, though it clearly saves lives, it may cost Pennsylvania Democrats dearly in lost state-wide races for at least a decade to come, leading to a faster dystopian outcome for Pennsylvania (see above.)
There are primary elections EVERY May (except Presidential years, when the primary is in April,) and general elections EVERY November.
THE FATE OF OUR DEMOCRACY DEPENDS ON YOU PARTICIPATING IN EVERY ELECTION.
It’s easy and safe to vote by mail, BUT YOU HAVE TO REGISTER TO RECEIVE A BALLOT IN THE MAIL ONCE EVERY YEAR - either by April for the primary, (or March in Presidential years) or by October for the general election.
Luckily, that ballot question about voting for the PA Supreme Court justices by district instead of statewide, slated for the May 2021 primary, was removed at the last minute. But if it had been placed on the ballot in May 2021, and Democrats did not turn out to vote, then we could have gone back to the bad old days of gerrymandering, but this time it might be worse. Gerrymandering could conceivably be so rigorous, you might never have another Democrat representing you for any office of consequence in Pennsylvania. The only people standing between you and this fate is the Democratically-controlled PA Supreme Court, plus, for now, our Democratic Governor, Tom Wolf, who only has another year on his term.
Pennsylvania is, therefore, at the center of this alarming and saddening drift towards American autocracy and racism.
It’s not too late to stop it, but 2021 is definitely a turning point for our divided nation.
The outcome of the local Fall 2021 election here in Upper Gwynedd — for Upper Gwynedd Commissioners, tax collector, school board members and other local officials such as Judge of Elections and Constable — is in the balance. A number of Trumpist candidates have stepped forward to oppose Democrats. These candidates aim to impose their ideas at the level of North Penn School Board, where those who don’t want mask mandates have been disrupting School Board meetings for months, and now want to impose these ideas from the top down. The Republican candidates for Commissioner want to impose their ideas on the township, too. To these candidates for Commissioner, parks and open space are seen as a luxury to be afforded only by the rich, not a valuable public commons worthy of spending a combination of taxpayer money and grants to achieve for posterity.
Maybe worst of all, our local Upper Gwynedd elections, which have run smoothly since the township’s founding, may now be under threat of challenge if the current crop of Republican candidates win for Judge of Elections in Upper Gwynedd-6 and elsewhere.
I am not painting all Republicans with a broad brush. Many are moderate in their thinking and pose no threat to societal order. What has happened here in Montgomery County, PA since the run-up to the primary election in May 2020, however, is that moderates have fled the local Montgomery County Republican party apparatus. Moderate Republicans, such as the Commissioners that ran Upper Gwynedd peacefully and without incident for decades, and others like them, have left their positions of influence in the local Republican party due to their own personal reasons, such as retirement, or because the local Republican party is cozying up to Donald Trump, Jr. and Laura and Eric Trump, who visited Montgomery County Republican meetings repeatedly, looking for support and money.
One of our Democratic committeewomen attended a Montgomery County Republican primary debate in Jenkintown in March 2020, and reported that one conspiracy-theory monger after another took the stage, spouting nonsense, in an effort to out-bluster each other with paranoid fantasies about liberals. I should have been more alarmed at the time. I am alarmed now.
The demonizing of the ordinary American liberal voter (read: non-white people, plus white “eggheads”) as an “enemy within our midst” by right-wing media is new — up until 2020, the right wing media reserved their harshest criticisms and conspiracies for Democratic politicians alone, not the ordinary voter. This shift has scary implications for the safety and stability of our communities and families, right here in Montgomery County. Here’s a recent post from the Montgomery County Republican Party’s Facebook page regarding liberals’ “lack of standards” to demonstrate.
It has never been more important for Democrats to wake up and vote in every election, including the one that is happening for in-person voters on November 2, 2021 at Gwynedd Square Elementary School, but also happening in your mailbox, every day, right now.
Local Democratic candidates serve as a “farm team” for higher office. For too long, Democrats have sat out “off year” elections, ceding local elections to Republican candidates, who then go on to win higher office. Please vote by mail now, or in person on November 2, 2021.
So you can see how very important it is that everyone vote in this “off-year” election, and, if you are voting by mail, that you do it soon, and drop off your ballot at a dropbox to avoid mailing it. (Postmaster Louis DeJoy has once again promised to slow mail down just in time for the November election.)
Here are answers to commonly asked questions about voting in the Fall 2021 election:
Q. Why is Trump donor and sneering bully, Louis DeJoy, still the US Postmaster General?
President Joe Biden has tried to get rid of DeJoy, but the United States Postal Service is a quasi-government organization that is also sort of a private company, much like Amtrak. The Board of Directors of the USPS, not the U.S. President, control the Post Office, and for right now, a majority of Board Members are Republicans and don’t want to vote DeJoy out. Luckily, this gridlock will end when some Board positions open up on Dec 8, 2021.
Q. How do you advise I work around the postal slowdown promised for this fall by Postmaster DeJoy?
A. We recommend you drop off your mail-in ballot at a secure drop box location, where it will be taken daily to the Montgomery County Voter Services office in Norristown. The closest location to Upper Gwynedd is the dropbox outside the District Courthouse at 430 Pennbrook Pkwy, Lansdale, PA 19446. It is available 24 hours a day.
Q. How often do I have to register to get a ballot by mail?
A. Once annually. It’s a common misconception that registering for a mail-in ballot is a “one and done” activity. If you regularly vote by mail, you will automatically receive an application annually. But if you do not turn in this application every year, you will no longer receive mail-in ballots.
Q. Voter registration for in-person voting is indefinite until I move or die, right? Why not mail-in voting?
Due to election integrity concerns, your annual registration to vote by mail will only result in two mail ballots in the future, one ballot for a general election, and one ballot for a primary election. Depending on the time of year you first make your registration, will determine whether your first of the two ballots is a general election ballot or a primary election ballot. After two election cycles, an April or May primary election, and a November general election, then the process resets and you must register again. (As it is, the issuance of two election ballots for every one registration to vote by mail fuels many false claims of voter fraud.)
Q. Speaking of that, how does Montgomery County know if I move or die? I’m sure not contacting them if I’m dead.
A. Voter services has a full-time person whose job it is to keep up with obituary announcements and property sales. Additionally, voter rolls are regularly purged. If you don’t vote for 4 years running, your name is removed from the voter rolls.
Q. Who’s on the ballot this fall 2021?
Here’s a link to a complete sample ballot, as it will look in Upper Gwynedd-6 when it arrives at your mailbox or in person on election day. If you live in Upper Gwynedd in a different precinct than 6, please click here for a sample ballot. If you aren’t sure what voting district you are in, please click here for a map. (Voting districts 4, 5 and 6 all vote at Gwynedd Square Elementary School, so it can be confusing.)
Q. How should I vote for retention of Judges? I can’t tell what party they are, and their websites don’t mention it.
A. Judges are supposed to be impartial positions. So once they are in office, typically their party affiliation is no longer mentioned on ballots, nor on their website. If their retention was not confirmed, it would create a vacant judicial seat that would need to be filled by appointment.
Luckily, Ballotpedia does list their parties. Here’s the rundown:
John T. Bender for PA Superior Court - Republican
Mary Jane Bowes for PA Superior Court - Republican
Anne Covey for PA Commonwealth Court - Republican
Renee Cohn Jublelirer for PA Commonwealth Court - Republican
Richard Haaz for Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas - Democrat
Q. What’s the most common mistake people make when voting by mail?
A. Not using the privacy envelope. There’s a plain white envelope that comes with your ballot. Neglecting to use it to conceal your vote from whoever opens the envelope at the County is called a “naked ballot”. They are counted, but in a separate pile, where they must be treated differently to make sure that County officials don’t know how any one voter voted.
Q. Is there another common mistake made by many voters who vote by mail?
A. The second-most-common mistake is not noticing that the ballot is printed on both sides. Many voters make this mistake in person, too, but there’s a clerk and a machine operator at the polling place to remind voters that the ballot is double-sided.
Q. Speaking of the ballot being printed on two sides, I heard that 16,000 Montgomery County ballots already went out to voters in the mail without a 2nd side?
A. Yes, unfortunately, that’s true. Here’s an article in The Reporter about this. I fear this may get in the national right-wing media as evidence of some conspiracy, especially since Montgomery County Commissioners are majority Democratic. But it was a vendor error. Even the person who was programming the printer didn’t see the other side of the ballot.
Q. What if I received one of the one-sided ballots?
A. Destroy the ballot and the envelope. No one has started counting votes at Montgomery County, and those ballots will be cancelled. Montgomery County will issue you a new ballot, and send it to you in the mail.
Q. Does this mean that people who got a one-sided ballot might be able to vote twice?
A. Absolutely not. There’s a bar code on every voter envelope (not on the ballot) that has a unique identification code. Those codes are registered in the system as being associated with your name. No ballots are accepted without an envelope with the bar code, because that is the way that Montgomery County keeps track of each voter, to make sure that everyone who is registered only votes once. If a bar code were to go through the machine with a voter’s name twice, the system would flag that vote as being irregular and a human at Montgomery County Voter Services would have to investigate the issue. Voting by mail is just as secure as voting in person. The vote tabulators at the County are professionals working for the Montgomery County Voter Services office, not volunteers. They know the procedures. Please see this video I created to explain the behind-the-scenes process.
Q. What’s to keep Election Officials from knowing how I voted?
A. The blank white privacy envelope. Outer envelopes with identifying bar codes are read by a machine that matches the bar code to each voter. Officials cannot read the bar code. The envelopes are separated from the ballots by hand, then counted at a different machine by a person who stacks them up and doesn’t see the envelopes. That’s why the privacy envelope is so important, though.
Q. What if I still need to register for a mail-in ballot? What’s the deadline? How do I register to vote by mail?
A. The official Montgomery County deadline to apply to vote by mail is October 26, 2021. However, due to the promised mail slowdown, we suggest that you apply for a mail-in ballot now.
Here’s a link to the Montgomery County website to register to vote by mail.
Q. If I completed a mail-in ballot, what’s the deadline to bring it to the County’s dropbox?
A. The dropboxes will be available 24 hours a day, starting October 16, 2021. You have until 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2nd to drop off your mail-in ballot in the nearest dropbox. For Upper Gwynedd-6, that’s the dropbox outside the District Court at Pennbrook Parkway.
Q. What if I am not registered to vote at all, or need to change my party affiliation, or I moved to Upper Gwynedd recently, and want to change my registration to my new address?
A. Even though voting is done through Montgomery County Voter Services, voter registration is handled by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. Please check your registration status, and register to vote, no later than October 18th, 2021 (though we suggest sooner than that, if possible) at this link.
Q. Why did Trevor Noah on The Daily Show forget about this November’s local elections in his recent bit about the post office slowdown?
A. He’s a comedian! Noah said that the upcoming post office slowdown will affect your holiday mail, forgetting all about the November election ballots that the postal slowdown from Postmaster DeJoy is likely aimed at. But, really, I wish he hadn’t made this glaring mistake. Democrats often think elections only happen once every 2, or even 4, years. He’s just reinforcing our disadvantage, which is that Democratic voters are not as motivated to vote in every election like many Republicans are.
Q. If all registered Democrats voted in every election, wouldn’t Republicans still mostly win elections?
A. Not locally, no. In Upper Gwynedd, Democrats have a slight voter registration advantage. If all Democrats turned out in every election, and voted only for Democrats, we would never have Republicans win in Upper Gwynedd. That’s why the phone calls, texts and postcards you get from Democratic politicians (we know they get annoying!) are all about getting out the vote. It’s so easy to remind Democrats to vote. Changing Republicans’ and right-leaning Independents’ minds is a lot harder than getting registered Democrats to vote, especially in today’s polarized environment.
Q. What’s the biggest local issue happening in Upper Gwynedd?
A. Besides the crazy things that have been happening at North Penn School Board meetings due to parents who don’t want their kids to wear masks, it’s The Martin Tract.
Here’s an article about that. (Tip: The map in the article is “upside down” with the northern part of the map facing down.) The backstory is that Upper Gwynedd Commissioners, (all Democrats) polled many residents and found that the number one concern among residents is lack of open space. A plan was put together and put out on Facebook, at several community forums, and on the township’s website to pay market rates for a tract of land that is not yet developed at the corner of Allentown Road and Broad Street. There’s a lot of rumors flying around that the land will be “taken” but the Township is going to pay market rates for the land, and, as such, is looking for grants, donations and some taxpayer money to pay for the market value of the land.