On Tuesday, Nov. 5, residents of Delaware County will vote in local elections. Three positions for County Council are on the ballot, as well as the District Attorney, Judge of the Superior Court, four positions on the Court of Common Pleas, and an amendment to the state constitution. We at The Phoenix encourage students who are registered to vote in Pennsylvania to vote in these elections, despite the absence of national-level candidates. Though national politics may seem more glamorous, local politics have vital importance. Many issues that affect community members’ day-to-day lives are decided at the local level, including funding for public schools, public transportation, land use, designation as a sanctuary city, and prison board control. Swarthmore students may only live here for four years, but we are still community members and should have a part in making these important local decisions.
Turnout is often lower in local elections than national elections, so one person’s vote may make a meaningful difference. In 2015, Leanne Krueger, Swarthmore’s current state representative, was elected by a margin of just 523 votes. This election illustrated that local elections can be extremely close, so Swarthmore students could change election outcomes. Since individuals have so much power, voters electing officials who will decide important local issues should be well-informed about the issues. If Swarthmore students who are eligible to vote are not well-informed about local issues, or if they are passionate about local issues at home, they should consider participating in local elections in their hometown. In most states, including Pennsylvania, eligible voters are able to register to vote in two places as long as they only vote in one, so voting in Swarthmore doesn’t preclude voting in future elections at home. Students who are able to vote should make their voice heard in the local election where they feel they can cast the most informed ballot — whether that is here at Swarthmore or at home.
When voters go to the polls for local elections, it may feel like their vote only affects mundane issues like trash collection or road maintenance. Since so many public services are provided at the local level, however, voters are actually making crucial decisions about the quality of life in their community. Although Swarthmore students are presumably only here for a short time in their lives, it is important to remember that we are guests in a community that extends beyond the college; this community is one that we should respect and feel responsible for looking after, if not for ourselves, then the permanent residents of the county. Students who are able to vote in Pennsylvania should consider learning more about the candidates between now and Nov. 5 so they can cast an informed ballot and help make Delaware County a more equitable, safe, and healthy place to live. An easy way to learn who and what is on the ballot is to use a website like Ballotpedia or Vote411, which provides easily-consolidated information about candidates and issues.
Students who live north of the train tracks vote at Swarthmore-Rutledge School, at 100 College Avenue. Students who live in Palmer, Pittinger, Roberts, NPPR, or Mary Lyon vote at CADES, at 401 Rutgers Avenue. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Students who are voting for the first time in Swarthmore must present their OneCard or other forms of identification at the polling stations. Find out more about voting in Swarthmore here.