This is more than an election. This is a test of who we are | Friday Morning Coffee

October 30, 2020 7:04 am

(Capital-Star file)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The morning I turned 18, it was a blindingly hot day in early June. And there were only two items on my agenda: Running to the post office in my little New England town to register for the selective service, and then zipping across town to town hall to register to vote.My errand at the post office took a couple of minutes. The trip to town hall took a little longer. I remember filling out some forms. And, in a ritual I’ve never had to go through since, the town clerk had me raise my right hand and recite a short oath.

Her words are lost to the intervening decades. But what I remember vividly is leaving that little office feeling absolutely giddy with excitement: I’d registered to vote. My voice now mattered. I had a say in the affairs of state. After more than half a lifetime of voting and covering politics, I’ve never lost that giddiness.

And though I’ve lived in five different states, a different continent, and at least two time zones, I’m about 99.9 percent sure that I haven’t missed voting in a single election.

And now, here in 2020, as the nation tries to survive the worst public health crisis in a century, and voters cast their ballots in a hugely consequential election, the right to vote is under a coordinated assault in my adopted home state of Pennsylvania, where the fight for the White House will very likely be won or lost.

And I can’t help but wonder what today’s 18-year-olds and today’s new voters, who might be filled with the same giddiness over casting their first ballots, are feeling about this effort to silence them.

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar on October 27, 2020 | Source: Commonwealth Media Services

Are they angry? Are they bitter? Are they already feeling, at this very early stage, like their voices don’t matter? I think I know the answer — and my heart sinks at it.

And I can’t help but wonder if the forces behind that coordinated effort — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign — have any idea of the damage they’re doing to the republic with a multi-pronged suppression effort that includes a blizzard of litigation and outright voter intimidation at the polls, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

I doubt that they care — or they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. And it’s become a battle of inches.

Republicans were dealt a temporary setback on Wednesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request to fast-track their appeal of a law that gives Pennsylvania up to three days after Election Day to accept mail-in ballots.

But the court held open the possibility that it could rule on the case after Election Day, when new Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who sat out Wednesday’s ruling, will be fully up to speed, and could vote to rule for the state GOP.

As a result, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has instructed counties to segregate late-arriving ballots that could end up being the subject of a court fight.

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gather across the street from PA AFL-CIO headquarters on Monday, 9/7/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

We know that Republicans  are doing this because mail-in balloting favors Democrats. And in a state where Trump prevailed by less than a percentage point in 2016, every vote matters.

As enraged as I’ve been by this entirely unsurprising hardball, it’s been alternately encouraging and a little heartbreaking to see Pennsylvanians turn out in their thousands to cast their ballots before the window for early, in-person voting closed on Tuesday.

Despite the risk of the pandemic and voter intimidation, Pennsylvanians were still willing to stand in long lines, braced against a damp October cold, to make sure their vote was counted and counted safely.

And again, I have to ask myself: What message are we sending to those young voters? Or to the new citizens who fled exactly this kind of authoritarian nonsense so they could be a part of the American experiment?

Again, I think I know the answer. And my heart sinks over it.

(Screen Capture, Trump Campaign YouTube)

We’ve been taking our daughter to the polls with us since she was a baby, so she’d know what it was like to vote, what it was like to be a participant in the affairs of the Republic. As a toddler, we’d show her which buttons to press so that each vote was tallied.

The smile in her eyes is one I won’t ever forget.

Now that she’s in high school, she’s been filled with questions these last few weeks as I’ve told her about the court fights, the back and forth of the campaign, and what’s at stake Tuesday. She’s told us that she wishes she was 18, so that she could vote, too. I’m in no hurry for her to get there, but I love the sentiment no less.

Hopefully, it’ll be a blindingly hot day in early July, three years from now, when she goes down to register to vote. Hopefully we won’t have extinguished that light in her eyes by then.

What we do next matters so much beyond Tuesday. And our children will judge us.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Democratic and Republican campaign committees in the state Legislature have raised a staggering $35.4 million as they vie for control of the state House and Senate, Stephen Caruso reports.

From our staff, an interactive map of how Pennsylvania’s 67 counties plan to count 3 million mail-in ballots.

Election and voter protection advocates are preparing themselves for a blizzard of litigation through Election Day, our Hearken Election SOS Fellow Kenny Cooper reports.

A trio of Democratic lawmakers are calling for the passage of legislation that increase access to contraception before this year’s legislative session ends on Nov. 30, our Hearken Election SOS Fellow Rjaa Ahmed reports.

During a news conference Thursday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine pleaded with state residents to cooperate with contact tracers trying to contain a fall surge of COVID-19 cases.

On our Commentary Page this morning, America’s suburbs have changed radically over the decades — and so have their politics, a Georgia State University scholar writes.

En la Estrella-Capital, ‘No espere’: Wolf y Boockvar instan a los votantes de Pa. que entreguen las boletas por correo tan pronto como puedan. Y según los funcionarios de salud, Pa. cuenta con el total más alto de un solo día en los casos de COVID-19.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (Flickr Commons)

Pennsylvania Democrats are headed into the final days of the campaign increasingly worried that the U.S. Supreme Court might throw out late-arriving ballots, the Inquirer reports.
The Post-Gazette looks at how the presidential campaigns are courting the support of Pennsylvania’s women voters.
Cumberland County is sticking with its plan to start counting mail-in ballots on Nov. 4PennLive reports.
Gov. Tom Wolf says the state is prepared for election-related civil unrest, the Morning Call reports.
Republicans and Democrats in Luzerne County are training poll-watchers for election night and beyond, the Citizens-Voice reports.

#Here’s your Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

A lawyer for the family of Walter Wallace Jr. says bodycam footage shows police intended to shoot to killWHYY-FM reports.
As many as seven Pennsylvania counties will delay counting mail-in ballots, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.
Erie County has set its rules for guns at the pollsGoErie reports.
In Bucks County’s 1st Congressional District, Democratic hopeful Christina Finello is touting her endorsement from Joe Biden in a new ad, PoliticsPA reports. profiles efforts by one rural North Carolina county to find polling places.
Even if it backfires, the GOP’s voter suppression efforts are a historic crisis, NYMag’s Intelligencer posits.

What Goes On.
Once again — nada. Everyone’s off campaigning. Enjoy the silence.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Have a birthday you’d like noted in this space? Email us on [email protected].

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s new music from English dance mavens Hot Chip, with an assist from ex-Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker. The song is ‘Straight to the Morning.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Another weekend of Premier League action is upon us. As ever, The Guardian has 10 things to watch for over the next 48 hours.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.