Voters are scheduled to head to the polls on Tuesday to select a new Philadelphia mayor.
Will you be one of them?
If history is any indicator, the answer is likely no. The top of the ticket features Democrat Jim Kenney as the overwhelming favorite against Republican Melissa Murray Bailey.
Given Kenney’s sizeable registration advantage, the race isn’t exactly a magnet to the polls.
But there are big decisions to be made. Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to the 2015 election.
Can Republicans maintain toehold in the City Council?
Some members of the City Council represent districts. Others, called at-large members of the council, represent the entire city. Under the city charter, two of these at-large seats are reserved for members of the minority party. Most people think this means that Republicans get these at-large seats in a move to ensure some semblance of a two-party system. But Republicans aren’t the only candidates who can qualify. Enter Andrew Stober, a former member of the Nutter administration who is the force behind the city’s bike sharing program. Officially, he’s running as an independent, but if he wins, it would push the overall ideological composition of the City Council to the left.
Republican Councilmen David Oh and Dennis O’Brien are fighting to keep their seats on the council against Stober’s end-run at the council. Also fighting for those two spots are Republicans Al Taubenberger, a former executive at the Greater Northeast Chamber of Commerce; former Ralph Lauren Executive Terry Tracy; steamfitter Dan Tinney; and Green Party candidate Kristin Combs.
Will a $10,000 lottery have an effect on turnout?
In an attempt to fight abysmal turnout, nonprofit news startup The Philadelphia Citizen has announced that a $10,000 prize will be given to a randomly selected voter.
The news site says that turnout in mayoral elections has declined from 61 percent in 1991 to 29 percent in 2007.
The idea for the lottery came from Los Angeles, where a $25,000 contest was announced in a school board election. According to the LA Times, people who heard about the lottery were twice as likely to vote.
While increased turnout likely won’t have an effect in Philadelphia, where more voters would likely mean more Democrats, it could influence elections for the the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are more likely to stay home during off-year elections, giving Republican candidates a slight advantage in statewide races.
The big question is whether increased turnout in Philadelphia will have an impact on the Supreme Court race.
Three of the court’s seven seats are open.
The Democrats in the race are Christine Donohue, Kevin Dougherty and David Wecht. The Republicans are Anne Covey, Michael George and Judith Olson. Donohue, Wecht and Olson have received “highly recommended” ratings from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Covey is rated “not recommended.”
Will city voters approve a permanent office of LGBT affairs?
Appearing on the ballot for the first time the question of whether the city should maintain a permanent office devoted to the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. This office exists now through an executive order made by Mayor Michael Nutter.
Where can you go to get more information?
Many people don’t vote because they don’t know who the candidates are or for what they stand. Civic watchdog group Committee of Seventy has partnered with Crowdpac to develop a VERY handy guide to the election, that ranks candidates according to where they sit on the ideological spectrum.
That can be found atwww.crowdpac.com/elections/pa/local/philadelphia.