You may think the important election in Pennsylvania is the general election in November. You would be wrong. Thanks to the endless cycle of partisan carving up of districts, the vast majority of elections are decided in primary elections, not in the general election.
While you hear a lot about challenges to the electoral maps between the parties, don’t think these fights are about making races fairer or more competitive. The intent of redistricting is to first ensure the biggest margin for the majority party- and both parties do this when they get the chance. The second intent, and the way in which the party in power gets the votes it needs from the minority party to pass these new districts, is to preserve the existing seats of current legislators.
If you looked at the recent court overturned redistricting effort, you’ll note that while it would have improved the chances for Republicans across the board (they are, after all the majority so it is their turn to rig the game), they very carefully strengthened the election chances of several Democrats by consolidating Democratic strongholds in certain areas. Why would the party in power do this? Because it plays to the desire to maintain incumbency. If they do it in a place the Democrat would likely have won anyway, they lose nothing.
But they gain a vote in support of the redistricting plan. Want to make a wild guess which minority party legislators voted in support of the majority party’s redistricting plan? Just look at which minority legislators would find themselves with an easier election under the new plan. I think you’ll find a higher than normal vote in support for the other party. There may be two parties in Harrisburg but there is one big club: the incumbents. And they all want to make sure they get to stay in the clubhouse.
That is why, even in “landslide” turnover years, the incumbent election rates tend to be well over 80% in the past few decades. Once you’re in, you’re in. Once a district is controlled by a party, it tends to stay controlled by that party. So if you want to know who is going to win the election in your district, chances are it is the candidate already in office or at least of the party which most recently held the office.
That means that if you want to make a change in Harrisburg or Washington, you need to make it in the Primary Election. It is statistically the most likely time you will have any chance of actually impacting who will be elected (assuming you are also registered in the party which holds the election advantage in that district).
And that means if you care about animal welfare, you need to cast your vote very deliberately for the candidate of your choice on April 24th.
As a 501c3 non-profit organization, HSBC cannot (and doesn’t want to) endorse or oppose any candidate. There are other organizations which can do that and we encourage you to speak to candidates about the issues, research many sources, and make up your own mind (one source, another source, find your own source). What we can do and like to do is advocate for positions and legislation which will benefit the animals and people in Pennsylvania. We can also let you know when a legislator has made a good, bad, or ugly decision when it comes to animal welfare policy. All too frequently we are stuck with sharing the bad and the ugly because we do not have enough elected officials who either see the value of strong animal welfare laws or have too many who don’t have the courage to stand up against powerful anti-animal welfare lobbies. Some simply pander to us and won’t follow through after being elected.
On April 24th you can help change that. You can help get a sensible anti-tethering bill passed. You can help get the pigeon shoots banned. You can help restore funding to the Office of Dog Law Enforcement. You can help ensure that Dog Law enforces the few laws which were passed recently to make life better for animals. You can help ensure that a gas chamber ban passes without the cynical cuts included in the bill now.
You can do these things by ensuring that whatever candidate you vote for in either or any party in this primary election is a strong animal welfare candidate. You can help to ensure that in the general election, no matter which party will win the district thanks to the electoral rigging, both candidates are strong animal welfare candidates. That way the animals win no matter who wins.
Finally, once you have helped elect a candidate, hold him or her accountable. If a candidate says he will do things and he doesn’t, demand answers and if you don’t get them, remember the betrayal of your trust in the next primary election in two or four years.
On April 25th we’ll know what animals can expect in Harrisburg because the general election winners will already have been chosen. You must make sure that it’s a win for animals.
Guest Blog by: Karel Minor, Executive Director, Humane Society of Berks County and Vice President, Humane PA.