The calendar has now moved past Labor Day and that means that election season is upon us. It is hard not to pick up your remote or a newspaper without seeing a story about the Presidential election. But it is not only the Presidency that is up for election this year. The results of the races for state and other federal offices will have a profound impact on Pennsylvanians, particularly older Pennsylvanians.
Years ago, learning about the views of candidates meant utilizing community resources. You might have had the opportunity to speak to them at a campaign event or forum. You could have gotten information from organizations like AARP, who often sent out voter guide questions on specific issues. You could have read the daily newspapers in search of published information about the candidates since the papers often included a candidate questionnaire in their articles. However, the wider use of the Internet has changed things, in both positive and negative ways.
On the plus side, much more information about candidates is now available. Every serious candidate has their own website, and their positions on issues are available for all voters to access. On the minus side, however, the information that is available is what the candidate wants voters to access. There is no analysis, and the “facts” are determined by the candidate. Another consequence is that candidates are less inclined to respond to candidate surveys because they simply tell organizations and voters to go to their websites. Additionally, newspapers have shrunk in size and content, so they may not have the resources to cover election issues as they once did.
Given this reality, how can voters concerned with issues make up their minds when choosing between candidates? In an era where many voters are simply looking for the “R” or “D” after the candidates’ name, signifying which political party the candidate represents, voting along party lines has become increasingly common. But political party identification often doesn’t reflect the views of candidates on the specific issues they will face. Each political office has different responsibilities, and the approach an individual will take to the office is not always predicated on what political party they represent.
With this in mind, I will be spending the next few weeks reviewing the political offices that are up for election this fall, discussing the responsibilities of the office, why the position is important for older Pennsylvanians, and providing links to the websites of the candidates for the offices. This information will be presented from a politically neutral stance – since AARP does not endorse candidates for office or operate a political action committee that makes financial contributions to candidates running for office.
The 2016 Pennsylvania ballot will feature elections for the following political offices:
- President of the United States
- Member of the United States Senate (1 Statewide position)
- Member of the United States House of Representatives (18 positions elected by district throughout the State)
- Member of the Pennsylvania State Senate (25 out of a total of 50 positions elected by district throughout the State)
- Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (203 positions elected by district throughout the State)
- Pennsylvania Attorney General
- Pennsylvania Auditor General
- Pennsylvania Treasurer
Statistics from Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office show that over the period from 2015 to 2025 the 65+ population in Pennsylvania will increase by 31.5%, while the under 65 population will experience a slight decline. This demographic shift will have a profound effect on how government operates, both at the federal and state levels. It is a factor that will impact each of these offices and should be an important consideration on how the future occupants of these positions approach their work. The individuals who will occupy these offices for the next two, four or six years must address the changes that are coming as a result of an older population.
We will start to examine this from the perspective of the specific political offices in the next Round Up, so stay tuned.
“Ray’s Round Up” features updates on current state and federal issues by Ray Landis, AARP PA’s Advocacy Manager.