Primary Hangover

Hey! So yesterday was really incredible: both inspiring and exhausting. I've spent the majority of my adult life deeply (perhaps strangely?) fascinated with how our government functions, at all levels. I've made phone calls for candidates, knocked thousands of doors, stood in a sea of people at rallies, been the only resident in rooms where boards discussed issues like spot variances and wetland conservation, organized with other community members online and in person, and created forums where candidates fielded questions from constituents. 

Yesterday was the first time I got to participate in the process as a candidate myself. From 7am-8pm (with a few short candy breaks) I got to meet hundreds of voters who came out to participate in our Primary. Throughout the day I greeted people who knew who were happy to just say hello and others who had very specific questions. Before and after school/work, Rose and Lori and our kids came. I was so proud to have them there and It was an invaluable opportunity to get the kids excited about civic engagement and see how the process works. Finally-I got to witness the hard work behind the scenes of the folks who run our elections. 

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I want to take a second on this last point: being a poll worker is a relatively thankless job, but folks like Yvette, Ellen, Mimi, Ron, Mary, Wendy, Dave, Jeff, Nancy and volunteers like Marwan, the Blairs, the Gilberts, Mark, Ruth, (and many, many others) spent the whole day and well into the evening, informing voters, taking names, tallying numbers, and triple-checking to make sure your votes counted. Our democracy would be nothing without people like them.

So--the results! because yesterday was the Primary, I was unopposed (meaning there were no other Democrats running for Supervisor in Upper Makefield) so there wasn't much drama about whether or not I'd garner enough support to move on to the general election, where I will have an opponent. That said, yesterday provided an important benchmark, and it looks like I received more votes than any other candidate for any position on the ballot in Upper Makefield. The margins were exceptionally thin so I'm not resting on any laurels but I was, of course, happy about the results. Moreover, though the percentage of voters who showed up at the polls was very small (predictably for a Primary in a non-national, off-year, election) Democrats in Upper Makefield showed out. We have an almost 2-1 registration disadvantage in our township and because of the relentless organization by the Upper Makefield Dems led by Priscilla, Steve, and Tom Merchant, we split the turnout fairly evenly. I also want to give a shout-out to our auditor candidate Tom who killed it yesterday, handily defeating his opponent. He and his wife
Sandy have been invaluable to helping me stay organized and focused.

Perhaps more importantly, Democrats did well across the county. I haven't seen a race yet where the Democrats didn't overperform for municipal and school board in any of the townships around Bucks. I've gotten to know many of these candidates over the last six months and I have become invested in their success. Folks like Shannon Sticker (Buckingham), Tim Hayes (Plumsteadville), Su Du Blu (Lower Makefield), Angela Cacchio (Bensalem), Ann Marie Mitchell (Northampton), Sarah Arva Grosik (Doylestown), Dan Wood and Connor Thomas OHanlon (Doylestown), Jon Panofsky (Warminster), Alicia Gasparovic (Langhorne Manor), Louise Feder (New Hope), Anna Payne (Middletown), Patrick McGovern (Yardley). Many of these are first time candidates and many of them are young candidates who care deeply about their communities and all worked hard to get to yesterday.

Ben with Bucks County Treasurer candidate Kris Ballerini and Bucks County Coroner candidate Meredith Buck

Ben with Bucks County Treasurer candidate Kris Ballerini and Bucks County Coroner candidate Meredith Buck

The County Row office candidates: My friend Kris Ballerini (Treasurer) , Diane Ellis Marseglia and Bob Harvie (Commissioner), Brian Munroe(Clerk of Courts), Linda Bobrin (Register of Wills), and Meredith Buck(Coroner) were all unopposed but received thousands of more votes than their Republican counterparts. If they win in the general, Bucks County will have Democrats in charge for the first time ever.

Finally our Court of Common Pleas candidates: Charissa LillerJessica VanderKamJordan Yeager, all won yesterday despite having terrible ballot positions and facing a huge field of ten candidates. The general election in November will be an extremely rare chance to add three new judges to the Court of Common Pleas and these three have the requisite experience, fairness, and compassion the job requires to be done well. 

This morning, as I'm reflecting, I'm able to better take stock of yesterday and I'm immensely proud and humbled that I got a chance to have taken part and to see this process from the perspective of the candidate. Thank you for all the in-person and online well-wishes and, of course, the generous campaign donations. We will need even more of all of that as we gear up for the general election in November. One thing was clear from yesterday's results: My race is going to be close. I'm going to work every day from now until November to get elected but any help you can provide, be it through donations, time, or kind words is very much appreciated. Thanks so much!



Rock Paper Scissors for Who Runs the Government

This is going to be a slightly longer post so bear with me. I returned to the Board of Elections (BOE) in the courthouse in Doylestown two weeks ago to drop off my signed and notarized nomination petitions. Sidenote: Many thanks to all the folks who signed the petitions to get me on the ballot! After shuffling all the paperwork around, getting everything stamped and approved, I headed home. There I was in the car, happy to have checked another item off my “How to Run for Office” to-do list when it occurred to me that I didn’t know specifically what happened next. Does someone call you to say “Congrats you’re on the ballot?” Does a notice come in the mail? Was there anything else I needed to do? So I gave the BOE a call and I found what they told me to be fascinating (though admittedly, I may be using that word very loosely).

Here’s what the good folks at the Board of Elections told me:

The window to deliver nomination petitions to the BOE closes on 3/10. From 3/11-3/19 , anyone can request a copy of the petitions. This happens when opposing candidates are looking to challenge the validity of the signatures. If they can successfully challenge enough signatures to bring you below the number required, then you will not appear on the ballot. Obviously, a candidate’s name not appearing on the ballot, would severely cripple that person’s chances of winning an election. This is all sort of inside-baseball info for the average voter, but fairly well-known to folks who run for office. 

 This is where it got interesting:

If you are running against others in your own party in the primary election (May 21st folks-don’t forget), the position of your name on the ballot is determined by what the BOE called, the “throwing of lots.” This happened on 3/20 and is a public event. If a candidate wants to, they can not only attend the event but actually throw their own lot. So that’s weird and neat and I had tons of questions: Like what do these lots look like? When/Where did this ritual originate? Where exactly does the lot-throwing go down? 

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Court of COmmon PLEAS Candidate Chris SerPiCo about to pull his lot from a “GReen PLeather Satchel” in order to deteRmine his positon on the ballot.

Image provided by Kristin Cadic Vogel who is Court of Common Pleas candidate Diane Magee’s proxy. Kristin was live in person at the Board of Elections to pull a lot on behalf of Diane and also recounted her exhilarating first-hand tale of this fascinating ceremony.

Also of note: For the general election, the position of your name on the ballot is determined by the party of the current Governor. In other words, if the Governor is a Democrat, the Democratic candidate gets the top spot. I haven’t seen any studies showing what effect this has on the outcome of an election, but I imagine that for this rule to exist, someone somewhere must think this provides an advantage to a candidate.

Why should we care?

The specific means by which ballot positions are chosen or ties are broken in elections may seem trivial because of how rarely they matter. Arguably in almost all cases they are, but here’s why I’m bringing it up: In 2017 there was an election in Virginia. The nominees for Governor were on the ballot as well as both houses of Virginia’s General Assembly (The Senate and the House of Delegates). Though polls showed the Governor race favored the Democrats, the Republicans had a large majority in both Houses and it would have taken an almost unprecedented “blue wave” for the Democrats to take either House. Politically, one of the major issues facing Virginia voters was whether or not they wanted the government to vote to expand Medicaid. Democrats were in favor of the expansion. Republicans were not. 

On election night, a remarkably strong showing by the Democrats resulted in a pick-up of 15 seats in the House of Delegates and the results were a 50-50 split. Incredibly, there was an actual tie in the 94th district between the Democrat and the Republican. A three judge panel declined to certify the results of the vote in that district and declared that there was no winner. So the control of this whole branch of government came down to who won this single district, and the results of that district were TIED. The way they resolved the tie was by, yes-you guessed it, drawing lots. They put canisters with the candidates’ names, into a custom made stoneware bowl and in front of a crowd of about one hundred, chose a canister. The Republican’s name was chosen and the House of Delegates stayed in the hands of the Republicans throwing the future of the Medicaid expansion into jeopardy. 

Every long post needs a moral

So the point of my long post is (and congrats on making it this far): The details of how we run our elections aren’t important until all of the sudden they really, REALLY are. In Virginia the fate of who gets health care and who doesn’t literally could have been determined by a chance drawing of names from a bowl. How we run our election process matters and every single vote makes a difference.

If you thought this post was interesting, consider donating $5 to our campaign to help us get the word out. If you did not think this post was interesting, we still could use that $5.

Palm Cards are in!

One of the pieces of advice I’ve had repeated to me over and over again in the early-going is that running for office isn’t about subtlety. People need to see your name and your face…a lot. So, to my friends in the design community, I pre-apologize for the decidedly unsubtle way we are going to be posting my name and face everywhere and the explicit violation of your highly-refined sensibilities. 

I started knocking doors last month so I could introduce my campaign and also get signatures for my Nomination Petitions that will put me on the ballot. These cards were super-useful in that effort; for folks that wanted the website, a little more information, or to leave if they aren't home.

This card, by the way, was made possible by the donations we received when we launched the website. Thank you very much to all who donated. Here is a link to our donation page if you’d like to help out. Even $5 will go a long way!

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Nomination Petitions

In order to get on the ballot, candidates need to gather signatures on nomination petitions. These petitions are crucial because if candidates don’t get the Petitions filled out in time or filled out correctly, they don’t appear on the ballot. Obviously that would be a significant impediment to getting elected. There is about a 30 day window to gather the signatures which closes on March 12. After the Nomination Petitions are turned into the Board of Elections, they become public and anyone can request copies and challenge the validity of signatures in order to get a candidate blocked from the ballot. Here are just a few reasons signatures can be invalidated:

  • Person lives outside the district you are running in

  • Person is a not registered in your party

  • Person used ditto marks instead of writing out information

  • Person did not properly write their town or township

  • Person wrote a date earlier than the date used in the line above, which, if the subsequent people follow suit, would invalid their signatures as well.

It’s crazy how easy it is to make one of these mistakes but we were diligent as we spent the last few weeks knocking doors and attending meetings in order to gather the signatures we needed. Thanks to everyone who signed!!

Making it Official

Today I officially kicked off my campaign for Upper Makefield Township Supervisor by signing some very important looking documents and handing those documents over to an equally important looking gentleman at the courthouse in Doylestown. Doylestown is where I grew up so it felt somehow appropriate to start this campaign there. I’m excited. Excited to officially get the ball rolling and to get out there and start knocking doors, meeting as many Upper Makefield residents as I can over the next eleven months and making the case for my candidacy for Supervisor.