The fact that less than one-quarter of the registered voters in Philadelphia participated in the recent primary election for key offices, from governor of the Keystone State down to ward-level officials, certainly constitutes a classic definition of pitiful for a person like Francisco de Miranda.
Across Philadelphia—the city that revels in its history as the Birthplace of Democracy in America—only 16.74 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls during the 2018 primary election that determines candidates for the general election in November.
So, who was Francisco de Miranda, the man with the unique distinction of having statues honoring him placed on Philadelphia’s famed Ben Franklin Parkway and in Havana, Cuba?
Miranda was a Venezuelan-born freedom fighter. He aided America during its Revolutionary War, that epic 18th Century battle against Britain that enabled the creation of the United States with its democratic form of government that extends voting rights to rich and poor alike. Later, he fought in the French Revolution and participated in liberation efforts in Latin America including Venezuela.
The squandering of democracy among so many registered voters in Philadelphia—represented by their failure to vote—insults the freedom fighting legacies of folks like Francisco de Miranda.
In some wards across Philadelphia, that pitiful 2018 primary election voter turnout rate was far less than the rounded-up 17 percent figure utilized widely in media reports.
In the predominately Latino 7th Ward, which includes Fairhill, only 3.4 percent of the 11,605 registered Democrats voted for the reelection of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat. The 1.69 percent of that ward’s 1,001 registered Republicans who cast ballots for the three GOP gubernatorial candidates compounded that pitiful turnout rate among Democrats.
Single digit voter turnout rates were also registered in the heavily Latino 19th and 43rd Wards adjacent to the 7th Ward where races included elections for Pennsylvania State House and Senate.
Several blocks from the 7th Ward in the sprawling, predominately African-American 32nd Ward in North Central Philadelphia, Democrat voter turnout for Gov. Wolf climbed out of single digits, but only slightly at 11.8 percent. GOP gubernatorial candidates drew just 2.4 percent of that ward’s registered Republicans.
Before low voter turnouts in wards like the 7th and 32nd are fluffed off as behaviors arising from race/ethnicity, consider the fact that in many predominately white wards around Philadelphia, turnout rates were also pitifully low.
In Philadelphia’s 66th Ward, located in the Far Northeast on the city’s border with Bucks County, 14.4 percent of registered Democrats voted for Wolf (the only Democrat candidate for governor) while the three GOP gubernatorial candidates drew out 18.61 percent of that ward’s registered Republicans.
Yes, many people don’t vote—understandably—because they don’t see a personal return from their participation in a political system riddled with corruption and rigged to favor the rich.
Yet, not voting is dereliction of citizen duty in a democracy.
Not voting carries detrimental quality-of-life consequences.
Too many easily forget that democracy is not a spectator sport!