Editorial: Competence versus Rhetoric in the Pennsylvania Election

Nothing is as important as our electoral process.

Elections must be safe. You must be sure. They must be simple and accessible. All of this can sometimes seem a bit contradictory. Does promoting the process prevent it from being safe? Does it lock down too much to make it safe to let everyone participate?

It’s a fine line to walk. It has also become a very political line, with one side preaching security and the other advocating openness.

With that in mind, it underscores what is perhaps the most important aspect: competence. It has never been more important that elections are conducted by people who understand the demands of the boots-on-the-ground.

Pennsylvanians vote at least twice a year. In a year without a presidency, that means voting (or mailing a ballot) in May for the primary and in November for the general election. In 2023, there will be a third election for the three vacant State House districts: the late Tony DeLuca’s 32nd, incoming US Rep. Summer Lee’s 34th, and new Lt. gov. Austin Davis.

That means a maximum of six months to prepare for the election – often while still counting the ballots and putting out the fires from the previous election. This short period of time makes the learning curve all the steeper.

It’s a small miracle that this ever happens without incident. It requires maintaining equipment, securing sites, printing mail-in ballots, preparing for election day, hiring and training sufficient poll workers, and meeting all deadlines.

Failure to do so can have enormous repercussions.

When the Pennsylvania State Department screwed up in 2021 and missed a publicity date for a poll question to change a sex abuse law, it meant the question couldn’t be put before voters.

A Votebeat story revealed that Luzerne County’s counties had an even more fundamental failing this year. They ran out of ballot paper, leading to an emergency order to keep the polling stations open later.

These are big problems. You get attention. There are a million kiddies that need to be managed between elementary school and elementary school and elementary school again each year. Some are someone’s fault. Others are just unlucky. Regardless of how they occur, they require a competent, knowledgeable, and experienced response to avoid becoming a major problem.

Both Democrats and Republicans need to focus on the importance of competence in getting the job done, not the rhetoric of challenging the process.